It’s official: the advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS) has become my favorite weapons program.
I’m an aerospace journalist, not an operator. That means I like weapon systems that keep me in business.
And APKWS has it all: contract cancellations, contractor drama, a ridiculous acronym and, now, a plot twist worthy of David Mamet.
Here’s a brief history of this wonderfully illustrious attempt to simply add a $5,000 guidance system to a 2.75-inch Hydra rocket worth about $200.
I’ll start with the first time that the US Defense Dept. canceled the contract. It was in early 2005. General Dynamics was the APKWS prime contractor and BAE Systems was the sub. There were a couple bad flight tests and the army decided to pull the plug.
Six months later, the program was reborn; this time as APKWS II. There were three bidders. One candidate was BAE, which had simply switched roles with General Dynamics as the prime. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, sniffing an opportunity to steal a plum contract from a vulnerable rival, also submitted bids.
By mid-2006, the army completed the source selection evaluation and awarded the contract to … (drum roll) BAE! Recompeting the contract only to award it to the original winner prompted some grumbling in industry circles. Some cynics questioned whether the army could have spared itself some trouble by showing more patience the first time around.
Later that year, however, the whole program was mooted by Congress, which axed the funding. Poof. Just like that, it was gone … again. (Meanwhile, BAE would continue hoping for the US Marine Corps to rescue the program.)
But yesterday’s news was the real shocker: Raytheon announced that the United Arab Emirates will fund the development of a semi-active laser to install on a 2.75-inch Hydra rocket.
This is the same semi-active laser that Raytheon originally developed for APKWS II. (Yes, I checked.)
Now, the UAE will pay for its development, allowing the US Army and US Marine Corps the opportunity to buy it off the shelf.
What could go wrong?