The US Navy has deployed the first fixed-wing aircraft variant of the advanced precision kill weapons system (APKWS) to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 233, operating the AV-8B Harrier in theatre.
US Marine Corps headquarters issued a requirement for this variant seven months ago, following which two programme offices; PMA-257 and the Direct and Time Sensitive Strike programme office (PMA-242), were assigned to field the 2.75in rockets equipped with semi-active laser (SAL) guidance capability.
AV-8B Harrier Weapon System (PMA-257) programme manager colonel Fred Schenk said: "This capability will provide commanders with a warfighting alternative to better enable weapon-to-target pairing."
The assigned programme offices worked on a two-phased programme to facilitate quick deployment of the weapon.
The first phase involved accelerating the fielding of the limited AV-8B fixed-wing APKWS employment flight envelope capability, which included the delivery of 80 guidance kits.
The second phase will increase the fixed-wing APKWS employment envelope limits to the maximum extent possible for AV-8B.
PMA-242 programme manager navy captain Al Mousseau said: "The intent of this requirement was to quickly provide the AV-8B with a low-cost, low-collateral damage, high-precision weapon in support of combat operations.
"This entire effort showcases what unity of effort among all government and industry stakeholders can accomplish to expediently deliver capability."
APKWS is a guided 2.75in rocket and uses SAL guidance technology to destroy soft and lightly armoured targets in built-up and confined areas.
SAL is a laser seeker, which enables the system to beam-ride reflected laser energy. The reflected laser energy is sourced by either airborne or ground-based laser designators, providing positive target acquisition.
Image: US Navy delivers new APKWS design for fixed-wing aircraft. Photo: courtesy of US Navy.