“Laser-Guided Rockets Are Getting New Highly-Versatile Anti-Armor Warhead” –The Drive

The Drive reports on a test of a new warhead for the “Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System” (APKWS)

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System, or APKWS, laser guidance kit designed by BAE Systems has been tested in a surface-to-surface role with a new highly versatile, multi-purpose warhead that is capable of taking on armor and other targets. The new warhead is provided by General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems. The test demonstrated added flexibility for not only the APKWS itself, which is most often employed in air-to-ground applications against more lightly armored targets, but also for all platforms that are capable of firing APKWS rockets.

A screenshot from the General Dynamics video showing the launcher configuration used during the test. Credit: General Dynamics

The test also demonstrated a new launcher.

The report was quite complete, providing background and an update on the entire program.

If you have been reading this blog regularly, you know I think APKWS would be a good fit for the Coast Guard as a precision weapon that would be highly effective against small, fast, highly manueverable threats while minimizing the possibility of collateral damage. Its relatively new proximity fuse also makes it effective against Unmanned Air Vehicles which appear to be an emerging threat. APKWS might even be effective against small ships if used in quantity.

For larger threats Hellfire or its replacement, JAGM, would be a better choice, but because this is so much cheaper and available in larger quatities, it appears much more likely. APKWS would probably be a better choice for PATFORSWA where the threat includes large numbers of small craft and UAVs.

We may have seen the video below, but it does suggest that the system is suitable for the 85 foot Navy MkVI patrol boat, so its certainly suitable for cutters of similar size and larger.

“‘Vampire’ to transform Ukraine pickups into deadly missile launchers” –Defense News

The VAMPIRE system can fit in almost any pickup or vehicle with a cargo bed. (Courtesy of L3Harris)

Defense News reports,

The U.S. is sending Ukraine “Vampire” kits that transform pickup trucks and other non-tactical vehicles into highly portable missile launchers...The L3Harris-made weapon ― a small, four-barreled rocket launcher and sensor ball ― can be mounted in two hours and operated by a single person, the company said. It can be equipped with missiles to hit ground or air targets including unmanned aircraft systems.

Gee, that sounds like something the Coast Guard could use, first and foremost on the Webber class FRCs of PATFORSWA, but really on virtually all cutters. It could be almost a ubiquous as the .50 caliber machine gun. Good for use against drones and swarming small craft, even small ships, and a bigger single round punch than any weapon in the current Coast Guard inventory.

The weapons expected to be used by the VAMPIRE (Vehicle-Agnostic Modular Palletized ISR Rocket Equipment) system are the AGR-20 APKWS II (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System), 70mm (2.75″) rockets with a semi-active laser homing guidance kit added.

This is not an expensive, exotic, limited production weapon. It is used in the thousands by the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines. It is combat proven. As we noted earlier, in “More on Surface Launch Application of APKWS,

“… the U.S. military has a lot of 70mm rockets and buys thousands more every year. The Army alone plans to buy 60,000 unguided rockets in fiscal 2023 alone. BAE Systems, which builds the APKWS II seeker kit, is tooled to build 25,000 of them per year and is expanding production, according to its website. It has already delivered 37,000 units in six years of production.”

As I have contended,

This is a weapon the Coast Guard could add, relatively painlessly, that could deal with a range of threats including:

  • Drones/Unmanned Air Systems
  • Small, fast, highly maneuverable surface threats
  • Small ships

With the right choice of ammunition type, it might provide a degree of effectiveness against larger ships, all while doing so with great precision and minimal chance of collateral  damage.

It is an easy fix, at least for the lower end of target set. If we can’t mount APKWS launchers on the 25mm Mk38, on the Webber class, we could mount it on the deck immediately above and behind the gun.

That the VAMPIRE system includes a laser designator also means that it can be used to identify targets for supporting units, particularly attack aircraft, something else I think we need.

“BAE Systems Successfully Tests APKWS Laser-Guided Rockets Against UAS” –Seapower

An artist’s conception of an APKWS strike against an unmanned aircraft. BAE SYSTEMS

The Navy League’s on line magazine, Seapower, report the successful test of a new alternative for countering Unmanned Air Systems.

BAE Systems Inc. has successfully tested APKWS laser-guided rockets in precision strike tests against Class 2 unmanned aircraft systems at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, the company said Oct. 11.

The 2.75-inch test rockets combined standard M151 warheads and Mk66 motors with APKWS precision guidance kits and a newly developed proximity fuze, enabling them to engage and destroy airborne drones at a fraction of the cost of traditional counter-UAS strike capabilities.

(A Class 2 UAS is 21 to 55 pounds, operates at 3500 ft or lower, and has a maximum speed of 250 knots, so its pretty small. ScanEagle is an example.)

As important as this cUAS capability may be, adding this capability to Coast Guard Units would also have the bonus of providing both a capability against a range of surface targets from small, fast, highly maneuverable craft to small ships, and at least a basic anti-aircraft capability.

Adding a launcher and the required laser designator to vessels with Mk 38 mod2/3 gun mounts should not be too difficult. The PATFORSWASIA Webber class FRCs would a good place to prototype an installation.

More on APKWS here:

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) –the Video

As I have suggested several times, there is a place for this system in the Coast Guard, here, here, and here, as a weapon that would allow even small units like patrol boats and FRCs to quickly and accurately deal with a range of threats, while minimizing the risk of collateral damage inherent in the use of our current weapons, e.g. 7.62mm, .50 cal., 25mm.

These weapons are not exotic. tens of thousands are produced annually.

Interesting to see how simply the pulse repetition frequency code is set to match it to the laser designator.

(I would also argue that the Coast Guard needs to have available laser designators in order to allow us to specifically identify threats for DOD aircraft that might be called in to help the Coast Guard deal with a threat.)

The first place to mount APKWS is on the FRCs going to PATFORSWA.

It is probably possible to mount launchers on the Mk38 gun mount. There is also the four round FLETCHER  launcher (see below) that can be fitted in place of a .50 cal.

“BAE successfully tests ground-launched APKWS rockets for first time” –Defense News

Concept art shows a ground vehicle launching an APKWS rocket. (BAE Systems)

Defense News is reporting that APKWS (Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System) has been successfully tested as a ground based weapon system. This is a small light weight missile produced by adding a guidance kit to the common and inexpensive 70 mm (2.75″) Hydra rocket. It has normally been used by helicopters.

As we have discussed previously, this looks like a weapon system that would give even relatively small Coast Guard craft a substantial punch, out to beyond 8,000 yards, with a minimal danger of collateral damage. And of course the Navy could use them against swarming fast inshore attack craft.

Notably:

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