BAE Systems yesterday said its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) was recently approved for its first deployment by the Marine Corps and sent to Afghanistan last month.

“One of the comments we get from the shooters is that they have a high level of confidence in the weapon,” said John Watkins, director of Precision Guidance Solutions for BAE Systems in Nashua, N.H., where the guidance section is built. “The APKWS has proven its maturity, and soon it will be available to all U.S. military forces and select countries. It is reliable and does the job.”

The APKWS, the only program of record for the semi-active laser-guided 2.75-inch rocket, converts the Hydra 70mm unguided rocket into a precision guided munition through the addition of a mid-body guidance unit (WGU-59/B) developed by BAE.

“This deployment is the culmination of years of rigorous testing to bring this important capability to the field,” said Capt. Brian Corey, program manager, PMA-242. “APKWS allows our warfighters to accurately engage targets in urban terrain where the threat of non-combatant casualties and collateral damage has prevented us from doing so in the past.”

Since testing began in 2007, the APKWS has been fired more than 100 times with a 94 percent success rate and an average distance from the center of laser spot to the impact point of less than one meter.

Following successful initial operational test and evaluation of 35 shots in January, the APKWS was cleared for fielding and was shipped to Afghanistan in early March (Defense Daily, Feb. 22).

The “plug and play” APKWS is a point-and-shoot weapon, fired like the unguided 2.75-inch rocket.

APKWS can be fired from any rotary-wing aircraft that can launch 2.75-inch rockets

The weapon is easily assembled by removing the warhead, attaching the guidance section to the rocket motor using existing threads, and then re-mounting the warhead to the guidance section. The weapon is shot with minimal instruction, as if it were an unguided rocket.

Last month, the company said in a statement it expected to sign a full-rate production contract next month (Defense Daily, March 16).

BAE has been APKWS prime contractor since 2006.