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Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) II

In April 2006 development began on a successor to the shelved Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) program, as APKWS II (as the program continued, it became more commonly referred to just as APKWS). The requirements for the program were largely the same, with the system described as a a precision-guided, air-to surface missile designed to engage soft and lightly armored targets. The system was intended to add a new laser-based seeker to the existing Hydra 70 Rocket System and was expected to provide a lower cost, accurate alternative to the HELLFIRE missile. Future block upgrades were planned to improve system effectiveness.

According to a March 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office, the APKWS II program entered system development with its one critical technology mature and its design stable. Between that report and the previous GAO assessment of what was then the APKWS program, the Army restructured the program and, in April 2006, awarded a 2-year, $41.9 million system development and demonstration contract for the newly titled APKWS II program. In 2006, the GAO reported that the combination of a number of problems, including the placement of the laser seeker on the fins rather than in the head of the missile, led to the Army's curtailment of the original APKWS contract in January 2005. Although the APKWS II laser guidance technology appeared to be mature, its integration on the missile's fins still presented a risk since this design was essentially the same as the original APKWS. Due to funding uncertainty, the schedule for the design review slipped from June 2006 to May 2007 and flight tests were delayed from August 2006 to January 2007.

As of March 2007 Program officials considered the one APKWS critical technology, laser guidance, to be mature. However, on the original APKWS program, integration of the laser seeker and guidance proved to be more problematic than originally estimated, and this difficulty contributed to contract curtailment and program restructuring. The Army restructured the program under the same set of key performance parameters and, in April 2006, awarded the APKWS II contract to one of the original program participants using the same laser seeker and guidance technology as in the original program. According to program officials, the contractor funded its own work on the revised APKWS II during the 15-month period between the original program curtailment and contract award for the follow-on program. The contractor's effort focused on the problems that plagued the original program. Program officials stated that during the interim 15-month period, the contractor successfully addressed the original APKWS problems and also conducted three successful missile flights.

The number of engineering drawings increased from 115 to 160 from the original APKWS to the APKWS II program. According to program officials, the drawings now include guidance and telemetry section drawings. Program officials expected to have all the engineering drawings, a measure of design stability, released by the design review in May 2007.

Program officials expected to hold the APKWS II system critical design review in June 2006 and flight tests in August 2006. However, funding uncertainty had caused those schedules to slip. The Army requested that some of the procurement money originally slated for the first APKWS bereprogrammed to support the development of APKWS II. This request was followed by two additional requests from the Army to reprogram money from another source. However, Congress had not yet approved any reprogramming requests for APKWS II. Subsequently, in June 2006, the Army directed the prime contractor to take actions to manage the contract within current funding constraints and to execute the contract through November 2006 with existing funding. That has caused the schedule for the design review to slip to May 2007 and the flight test to January 2007. Due to the uncertainty of future funds, APKWS II program officials predict further schedule slippages and subsequent increased program costs related to replanning activities.

In response to the GAO report program officials stated that having a design with the laser seeker on the wings was not an issue that led to the Army's curtailment of the original APKWS contract. Program officials further noted that this design presents no major difficulties to the integration of the APKWS laser seeker and guidance section into the Hydra-70 Rocket components. They believed the placement of the laser seeker provides significant advantages during extreme environmental operations and adjacent rocket firings. Also, program officials noted that the lack of required funding in FY06 and FY07 resulted in moving the first flight to January 2007 and the design review to May 2007. Finally, they stated that efforts were ongoing to establish a revised, realistic baseline within current funding constraints and that they were confident the revised cost and schedule will not breach the current Acquisition Program Baseline.

The GAO insisted that prior work had shown that the placement of the laser seeker on the fins rather than in the head of the missile was problematic for the original APKWS program. The integration difficulty contributed to the cost overrun and protracted schedule, which subsequently led to program curtailment and restructuring.

The US Navy subsequently assumed control of the APKWS II program from the Army in 2009. The previously competed System Development and Demonstration Army contract to prime contractor was transferred to the Navy for continued management. The program was through milestone B and meeting cost schedule and technical performance requirements. The Navy funded the remainder of the program to complete System Development and Demonstration. The Navy intended to award Sole Source Low Rate Initial Production 1 and 2 contracts to the System Development and Demonstration prime contractor.

On 15 March 2012, BAE Systems, the primary contractor for APKWS II, announced that the US Marine Corps completed the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation phase of the program, firing rounds against stationary and moving targets at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. At that time, it was expected that during March 2012, the system would be deployed operationally to Afghanistan.

In early June 2016 the US Air Force employed BAE Systems’ Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWSTM) laser-guided rockets for use in ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force fielded the initial units to fulfill an urgent operational need for F-16 and A-10 aircraft, and it has already successfully used the weapon in combat operations. The deployment marked the first time these systems had been used in combat operations from an Air Force fixed-wing platform and comes on the heels of the U.S. Marine Corps fielding the rockets on AV-8B fixed-wing aircraft. The APKWS rocket, a mid-body guidance kit that transforms a standard unguided munition into a precision laser-guided rocket, has proven highly successful for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps since 2012 and has also been used by U.S. Army Apache helicopters in combat.

“The APKWS rocket’s innovative ‘plug and play’ design makes it possible to deploy these systems on a variety of platforms,” said David Harrold, director of precision guidance solutions at BAE Systems. “The Navy and Air Force deserve immense credit for streamlining the acquisition process by leveraging an existing Navy program of record to meet the needs of all our military services. We are confident that the addition of this highly accurate, low-collateral-damage weapon system will be a game-changer for F-16 and A-10 users in the U.S. Air Force and around the world.”

“The APKWS fixed-wing fielding has been a true display of joint service and contractor teamwork to quickly deliver a capability to meet Air Combat Command fielding requirements while also exceeding Air Force should schedule timelines,” said Brigadier General Shaun Morris, Program Executive Officer for Weapons, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Similar to the Army’s acquisition of APKWS in 2015, the Air Force acquired its initial supply of rockets out of the current Navy inventory and is working with BAE Systems and the Navy to secure additional units to meet ongoing demands. In its fourth year of full-rate production and qualified or demonstrated on more than a dozen rotary and fixed-wing platforms, the APKWS rocket is the only U.S. Department of Defense fully qualified, guided 2.75-inch rocket that uses semi-active laser guidance technology.

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Page last modified: 10-06-2016 19:33:34 ZULU