Anglo-US defence supplier BAE Systems won its first US prime contract to supply missiles yesterday, beating Lockheed Martin to supply the US Army's next generation of laser-guided missiles for its combat helicopters.

BAE's electronics group, based in Nashua, New Hampshire, won the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS2) contest, leading a team that includes Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. The missile, dubbed "Hellfire Junior", will be a smaller, lower cost version of the conventional Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile used currently on US Army helicopters. An artist's impression is pictured below.

BAE Hellfire Jr W445

The APKWs2 award is estimated to be worth around $100 million in contracts, but the final value could be around twenty times this with export orders for the North American arm of BAE. "Winning this programme was very important to us," BAE APKWS2 programme manager Dick Venuti says. "Although we haven't been a prime on a missile or rocket programme before, we've been a subcontractor and supplier of components for many programmes. We have the expertise to perform at the highest level on this one."

The selection of BAE has taken many defence analysts by surprise.

Source: Flight International