BAE Systems Repurposes Its Laser-Guided Rockets to Bring Down Drones

The low-cost rockets can be rapidly launched and targeted.
Ameya Paleja
An artist's representation of the system at work.BAE Systems

As the threat of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) increases, there is also the need to develop low-cost countermeasures. While many are looking at lasers and microwaves, London-based defense contractor, BAE Systems, has taken the route it knows best,  rockets. Except, that these rockets are just 2.75 inches (7 cm)  in size. 

Since 2012, BAE Systems has been providing the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) that uses a laser guidance kit that converts 2.75-inch Hydra 70 unguided rockets into precision-guided munitions. APKWS rockets are already in use on the field and have a proven track record of striking stationery as well as moving targets from a wide range of military vehicles, and remote weapon stations.

Now, the company has developed a proximity fuze that enables standard warheads and motors to be used as low-cost munitions against drones, the company said in its press release. The proximity fuze combines the capabilities of target proximity and point detection and can simply replace the existing M423 fuzes on the current rockets.

Developed by L3Harris Technologies and Technology Service Corporation, these new and innovative fuzes now allow these mean tiny rockets to destroy UAS's without the need to actually make contact with them. The company recently tested the technology against Class 2 UAS at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona. "Our successful test strikes demonstrate the creativity of our engineers and an innovative and economical use of existing DoD materiel to address an emerging threat," said Greg Procopio, director of Precision Guidance and Sensing Systems at BAE Systems.

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The unique feature of the APKWS is extended to its counter UAS operations as well. Instead of locking onto the drone, the rockets can be fired first and then led to their target, saving precious seconds when it really matters, the company said. 

"The flexibility and affordability of APKWS rockets make them a good choice for taking out small, tactical military drones," Procopio added. The company claims that its APKWS provides for a counter-drone measure at a fraction of the cost of traditional strike capabilities. 

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