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Air Force F-16’s & A-10s need more laser-guided missiles to attack small targets

File photo – A-10

(REUTERS/Staff Sgt. Jason Robertson/U. S. Air Force/handout via Reuters)

The Pentagon is substantially revving up its arsenal of air-launched, laser-guided missiles able to attack targets and moving targets from the air at distances of more than three kilometers (1.86 miles), the officials said.

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System connects an orientation on unguided Hydra 70 2.75-inch rockets, helicopters and fixed-wing assets have a greater ability to designate targets with the precision of a laser.

“APKWS provides the warfighter a precision-guided, moving target capabilities for the F-16 and A-10 aircraft, with effects between a machine gun ammo and a Hellfire missile,” Maj. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told the Warrior Maven.

Air Force officials explained that there is still a widespread, fast-growing demand for APKWS given the current global on-the pace and the continuous air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

BAE Systems just received a custom APKWS production deal to add more than 10,000 new units to the existing arsenal. While Naval Air Systems Command is the contracting authority, the largest amounts of the new rockets are scheduled for the air force.

A-10 Warthog attack aircraft, Air Force F-16’s and other aircraft, constantly attacking enemies in Iraq and Syria. In contrast to the 100-pound, tank-killing Hellfire Missiles, APKWS rockets are very useful to attack smaller targets, such as groups of ISIS fighters.

Consisting of a rocket engine, seeker, warhead and fuze, APKWS missiles can track and attack targets, such as small groups of enemy fighters, thin-skinned vehicles, and other objects for which a Fire is too large or unnecessary.

At the start of the strikes, wing-mounted viewfinder optics to receive the reflected laser energy of the target, BAE weapons developers said.

BAE developers also report that the weapon has a 90 percent chance of hitting a target within two meters per shot.

“The weapon is very effective against stationary and mobile targets,” Grabowski said.

ISIS and other terrorist groups are known to deliberately mingle with civilians to complicate targeting for attacking troops. Such a phenomenon underscores the merits of smaller, precision weapons that can isolate enemy targets while avoiding damage to nearby public or surrounding infrastructure.

“A guidance kit that we have developed, and goes in between the head and the rocket motor,

making it into a precise, accurate and low-collateral damage weapon,” Dave Harrold, Director of Business Development for the Survival, targeting and Sensing at BAE Systems

BAE has designed APKWS rockets with a certain “mid-body” design designed for an additional purpose and guidance.

“Other SAL (semi active laser) systems have a nose-mounted SAL seeker that is limited to an opening in the front. We have four spaced openings on the wings, so that we have a better immediate field of regard,” Harrold added.

BAE is now the pursuit of a technical roadmap to enhance the scope and directed guidance of APKWS. These include technical exploration of the rocket motor upgrades and extra seeker technology.

“Range limitations are based on the rocket motor,” Harrold explained.

Multiple forms of “looking” – technology would greatly extend the versatility of the weapon by allowing it to operate more effectively in adverse weather conditions.

“SAL may be challenges where there are obscurants. If you are not getting a strong laser signal, that is difficult,” he said.

More than 17,000 APKWS units were ordered for 2018; over the years, the weapon is fired from an AH-64 Apache, V-22 Osprey, the Navy Fire Scout Drones, Marine Corps UH-1Ys, A-10s, the MH-60s helicopters and Air Force F-16’s, among others.

BAE has also qualified APKWS weapons on an F-18 Super Hornet and the A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft.

APKWS rockets were also successfully tested against maritime targets such as small surface vessels, a report of the Naval-Technology.com said. The missiles were fired from a Marine Corps UH-1Y.

“The APKWS rocket used are inert Mk152 high explosive warheads, and Mk149 flechette warheads directly hit and destroy the targets varies from 2 km-4 km and have been validated maritime capacities”, the report writes.

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