Successful US Army flight testing of guided Hydra 2.75in (7cm) rockets this month could lead to development and production of the fast-track Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS).

Since late 1999, Raytheon and BAE Systems have competed for the programme to give the unguided area-suppression Hydra rocket a semi-active laser "lock on after launch" capability to accurately attack soft and lightly armoured targets. The APKWS project was initiated to develop a low-cost, retrofit guidance section for the Hydra-70.

While APKWS, which adopts technology from the Paveway laser-guided bomb, would arm US Army and US Marine Corps attack helicopters, US Army officials also see a possible role on the Future Combat System armoured vehicle. The weapon is expected to be effective from a standoff range of 6km (3.2nm).

The technology required to support APKWS development has been successfully demonstrated, leading to flight tests this month of guided Hydra-70 prototypes built by Raytheon and BAE Systems as part of the Low Cost Precision Kill advanced technology demonstration.

The Raytheon configuration has the guidance section on the nose of the rocket. BAE Systems' concept has the seeker behind the warhead. The flight test will determine which design enters a 24-month development phase.

US Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM) is exploring the development of a 35km-range, turbojet-powered Future Artillery Loiter Concept munition that would transmit live pictures back to a gunner prior to impacting the target. Captive rail tests have been successfully completed, but a funding shortfall stands in the way of actual flight tests.

Source: Flight International