BAE successfully tests ground-launched APKWS rockets for first time

Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — BAE Systems has completed a successful ground-to-ground test of its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rocket for the first time, the company announced Monday.

The test, conducted at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, involved “several successful shots” of the APKWS rockets out of a launcher, built specifically for ground vehicles by Arnold Defense, according to BAE.

The weapon has traditionally been launched from rotary or fixed-wing aircraft. A ground-based APKWS, delivered via the Arnold Fletcher launcher, was first unveiled in 2018.

“Demand is growing for ground-to-ground precision munitions that provide a safe standoff distance for small ground units,” Greg Procopio, director of precision guidance and sensing solutions at BAE Systems, said in a statement. “We’re working closely with our customer and partners to deliver that capability.”

The APKWS laser-guided rocket is used by the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. The Navy holds the program of record.

The rockets have also spread via foreign military sales to more than a dozen foreign nations. However, the U.S. Army decided to end procurement of the rockets as a result of its “night court” budget review. In its fiscal 2021 budget request, the service said it redirected $122 million in funding from the rockets toward higher priorities.

Even before the Army’s decision was official, BAE was working to increase the flexibility of APKWS as a low-cost, precision-strike option. Late last year, the Air Force successfully tested it for missile defense, and the ground-to-ground version would add to the military options for the weapon.

The company delivered more than 35,000 APKWS units by the end of 2019 and expects to deliver 18,000 in 2020.