Army Times is reporting that Arnold Defense is showing a system developed to allow the mounting of up to four Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS II) 70mm laser guided rockets virtually anywhere there is a “universal gun mount,” including maritime applications. That sounds like the mounts for our .50 caliber machine guns.
APKWS is a kit that adds semi-active laser homing guidance to any Hydra rocket, a common unguided rocket normally used in large number for area suppression.
The launcher for up to four rockets, called Fletcher, is 6.5 feet long and has an empty weight of only 30 pounds. Each of the 2.75″ rockets when equipped with APKWS kits weighs about 32 pounds depending on warhead chosen, for an all up weight of about 158 pounds.
Range is at least 5,000 yards in surface to surface mode. The effect of a hit is similar to that of a 3″ (76.2 mm gun). This seems to be the weapon we need to quickly and reliably take out threats based on small, fast, highly maneuverable vessels with less likelihood of collateral damage than gun systems. It would probably deal effectively with larger vessels up to about 100 tons.
APKWS is in the Navy supply system. A contract in 2016 for the purchase of 5000 kits at a total cost of $133M yielded a unit cost of $26,600 and since then the unit price has reportedly deceased as production has increased. BAE is working up to a capacity of building 20,000 APKWS kits a year. They have already completed over 10,000. Arnold claims to have produced over 1.1 millilon rocket launchers since 1961.
The light weight offers several advantages. It would not have to be mounted all the time. It should be easy to remove and remount the launchers, or to move them between platforms. We would not necessarily need to load up all four tubes or have two launchers.
We would need to make sure the back blast points in a safe direction, perhaps mounting the launcher(s) on the stern. We would also need laser designators, but they readily available, and we probably should have them anyway, as a way of designating targets when we need to get help from our sister services.