BAE Systems is poised to receive its first production orders for a new low-cost guided rocket that will equip the US Marine Corps' attack helicopters.

The company expects to secure contracts within days for the first two low-rate initial production lots of its advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), totalling a combined 925 of the 2.75in (70mm) rounds.

"We've started ordering long-lead items with our own funds," says George Adamakos, BAE's business development manager for soldier and vehicle solutions. Although the LRIP 1 and LRIP 2 orders will total 325 and 600 weapons, respectively, the company is "ordering materials for 2,000".

With more than 1,000 rounds to be produced above the USMC's initial requirements, Adamakos says: "We're ready for international sales, or for the US Army. We've had a lot of interest from people on APKWS."

Test firings using the new weapon have demonstrated an average hit distance of 0.44m (1.4ft) from the laser spot, Adamakos says. The system is due to enter initial operational test and evaluation with the USMC late during the first quarter of next year, and will initially be fielded with its Bell AH-1W Cobra fleet.

 APKWS Cobra - BAE Systems
© BAE Systems

Other candidate airframes include the service's Bell AH-1Z and UH-1Y rotorcraft, the US Navy's Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk and potentially even the USMC's Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned aircraft system.

Adamakos says the US Army is in "wait-and-see mode" with regard to its requirement for a new guided rocket. "They want to look at the manufacturing readiness of the bidders," he says, adding: "Development-wise, they know where we are."

Source: Flight International