BAE System's Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) laser-guided 70-millimeter rocket system has been integrated onto Bell Helicopter's new Model 407GT armed light helicopter.
The Bell 407GT is a derivative of the company's existing 407GX commercial helicopter, but the company hopes to sell the armed variant to foreign US allies in need of a light multirole helicopter. "The 407GT is a 'force multiplier', with mission capabilities ranging from tactical air assault and troop escort to reconnaissance and search and rescue," says Danny Maldonado, a Bell sales vice-president.
BAE is also working on integrating the APKWS onto other platforms such as the US Army's Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warrior and Boeing AH-64 Apache using internal company funds, says David Harrold, the company's director of precision guidance solutions. Airworthiness qualification shots are expected this summer, he says.
If the programme were to secure the US Army's formal backing, it would reduce costs for the Department of the Navy and foreign customers because the increased volumes would result in greater economies of scale. The weapon is already integrated on the US Marine Corps' Bell UH-1Y Huey and AH-1Z Cobra helicopters and more than 200 rounds have been used during combat operations in Afghanistan, Harrold says.
The US Navy is also trialing the APKWS against maritime targets such as small, fast-moving boats which could threat the service's warships in tight littoral waters. Early testing at the Point Mugu naval base in California has shown very promising results, Harrold says. Though testing was conducted using USMC assets, if the USN adopts the weapon for use against swarming boat attacks, the APKWS could be integrated onto the service's Sikorsky MH-60S/R Seahawk fleet.
The weapon might also potentially be adapted for use on the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Firescout unmanned helicopter-which set to be used onboard the USN's Littoral Combat Ship fleet.
BAE is also under contract with the US Navy to integrate and test the APKWS on the USMC's Boeing AV-8B Harrier IIs and US Air Force's Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, Harrold says. Testing should start this year, he addss. If successful, the weapon could potentially be integrated onto the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Lockheed Martin F-16.