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Jack Torres
Jack Torres

Why APKWS II is the Best Choice for Light Attack Aircraft

APKWS II: A Low-Cost, High-Precision Rocket System

If you are looking for a weapon system that can deliver accurate and effective strikes against lightly armored targets, while minimizing collateral damage and cost, you might want to consider the APKWS II. The APKWS II, or Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, is a design conversion of an unguided Hydra 70 rocket with a laser guidance kit that gives it precision-kill capability. It is intended as an inexpensive way to destroy targets in close combat, especially in urban environments and complex terrain. In this article, we will explain what APKWS II is, how it works, what are its advantages and applications, and who are its current and future users.

What is APKWS II and how does it work?

The APKWS II is a 2.75-inch (70 mm) diameter rocket that can be launched from various platforms, such as helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and naval vessels. It consists of three main components: the rocket motor, the warhead, and the guidance section. The rocket motor provides the propulsion and the warhead provides the explosive effect. The guidance section is the key innovation that distinguishes the APKWS II from the Hydra 70. The guidance section is threaded between the warhead and the rocket motor, and contains a Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) technology. This system allows a laser seeker to be located in the leading edge of each of the four forward control canards, working in unison as if they were a single seeker. This configuration allows existing warheads from the Hydra 70 system to be used without the need for a laser seeker in the missile nose.

apkws ii

The APKWS II works by following a laser beam that is pointed at the target by either the launch platform or another source. The laser beam reflects off the target and is detected by the DASALS seeker in the guidance section. The seeker then sends signals to the canards to adjust their angle and steer the rocket towards the target. The APKWS II has a range of about 1.1 to 5 km (0.68 to 3.11 mi) for rotary-wing platforms and 2 to 11 km (1.2 to 6.8 mi) for fixed-wing platforms. It has a speed of up to 1,000 meters per second (3,280 ft/s) and can hit targets with an accuracy of less than 0.5 meters (1.6 ft).

The history and development of APKWS II

The APKWS II is a product of decades of research and development by various agencies and companies in the United States. The original concept of converting unguided rockets into guided ones dates back to the 1960s, when the U.S. Army experimented with adding infrared seekers to Hydra 70 rockets. However, these efforts were unsuccessful due to technical challenges and budget constraints. In the 1990s, the U.S. Navy revived the idea and initiated the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) program, which aimed to develop a low-cost laser-guided rocket system for close air support missions. Several contractors competed for the contract, but none of them met the requirements.

In 2005, the U.S. Navy cancelled the original APKWS program and started a new one called APKWS II, which had more relaxed specifications and lower cost goals. The winning bidder for the APKWS II contract was the team of BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics, which offered the DASALS technology as a solution. The first flight test of APKWS II was conducted in 2007, and production began in 2011. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was declared in 2012 on AH-1W Cobra and UH-1Y Venom helicopters.

The advantages and applications of APKWS II

The APKWS II has several advantages over other weapon systems in its class, such as:

It - It is compatible with existing Hydra 70 launchers and warheads, which reduces the need for new equipment and training. - It is cheaper than other guided missiles, such as the Hellfire or the Javelin, which cost around $100,000 and $200,000 per unit, respectively. The APKWS II costs around $30,000 per unit. - It is more precise than unguided rockets, which have a Circular Error Probable (CEP) of 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 ft). The APKWS II has a CEP of less than 0.5 meters (1.6 ft). - It is more suitable for urban warfare and counterinsurgency operations, where minimizing collateral damage and civilian casualties is crucial. The APKWS II has a smaller warhead than the Hellfire, which reduces the blast radius and the risk of friendly fire. - It is more flexible and adaptable than other weapon systems, as it can be used against a variety of targets, such as vehicles, buildings, bunkers, boats, and personnel. It can also be launched from different platforms and angles, and can engage multiple targets in a single pass.

The APKWS II has been used in various combat scenarios, such as:

APKWS II laser-guided rockets

APKWS II vs Hellfire missiles

APKWS II integration on F-16

APKWS II cost and performance

APKWS II foreign users and sales

APKWS II Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS)

APKWS II launch platforms and compatibility

APKWS II effectiveness in close combat

APKWS II production and delivery

APKWS II fielding on AV-8B Harrier

APKWS II use in Iraq against ISIS

APKWS II export to Ukraine

APKWS II guidance section and warhead

APKWS II operational testing and evaluation

APKWS II advantages and limitations

APKWS II future upgrades and variants

APKWS II impact on collateral damage

APKWS II employment on AH-1W Cobra

APKWS II range and accuracy

APKWS II development history and challenges

APKWS II comparison with other guided rockets

APKWS II role in counterinsurgency operations

APKWS II suitability for naval platforms

APKWS II support and maintenance

APKWS II safety and reliability

In 2014, the U.S. Marine Corps used APKWS II rockets to destroy Islamic State targets in Iraq. - In 2015, the U.S. Air Force used APKWS II rockets to strike Taliban positions in Afghanistan. - In 2016, the U.S. Navy used APKWS II rockets to sink Iranian fast attack boats in the Persian Gulf. - In 2017, the U.S. Army used APKWS II rockets to support Iraqi forces in the Battle of Mosul. - In 2018, the U.S. Special Operations Command used APKWS II rockets to eliminate al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.

The current and future users of APKWS II

The APKWS II is currently in service with the U.S. military and several allied countries. The U.S. Navy is the lead service for the program, and has integrated the APKWS II on several platforms, such as the AH-1Z Viper, the UH-1Y Venom, the MH-60S Seahawk, the MH-60R Romeo, the AV-8B Harrier II, and the F/A-18 Hornet. The U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Army have also adopted the APKWS II for their respective platforms, such as the AH-64 Apache, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the AC-130 Gunship. The U.S. Special Operations Command has also deployed the APKWS II on its MH-6 Little Bird and MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The APKWS II has also been exported to several foreign countries under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. Some of these countries include Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany. The APKWS II has been praised by these countries for its performance and reliability in various missions and environments.

The APKWS II is expected to remain in service for many years to come, as it continues to receive upgrades and improvements. Some of these enhancements include increasing the range and speed of the rocket, adding a multi-mode seeker that can switch between laser and infrared guidance, integrating a proximity fuse that can detonate the warhead at a predetermined distance from the target, and developing a maritime variant that can penetrate underwater targets. The APKWS II is also being considered for integration on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as the MQ-8 Fire Scout and the MQ-9 Reaper.


The APKWS II is a remarkable weapon system that combines low cost, high precision, and versatility. It is an ideal solution for engaging lightly armored targets in close combat situations where collateral damage must be minimized. It is also compatible with existing launchers and warheads from the Hydra 70 system, which makes it easy to integrate and operate. The APKWS II has proven its effectiveness in various combat scenarios around the world, and has been adopted by many countries as part of their arsenal. The APKWS II is expected to remain relevant and useful for many years to come.


What does APKWS stand for?

APKWS stands for Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System.

How does APKWS differ from Hydra 70?

APKWS differs from Hydra 70 by adding a laser guidance kit that gives it precision-kill capability.

What are the benefits of APKWS?

Some of the benefits of APKWS are that it is cheaper, more accurate, more suitable for urban warfare, and more flexible than other weapon systems.

What are the drawbacks of APKWS?

Some of the drawbacks of APKWS are that it has a shorter range, a smaller warhead, and a limited payload capacity than other weapon systems.

Who are the main users of APKWS?

The main users of APKWS are the U.S. military and several allied countries, such as Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Australia, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, and Germany.


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