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BAE awarded $225 million APKWS rocket contract for US, Nigeria, Netherlands

BAE Systems was awarded a $225 million contract to produce almost 10,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System units for the United States, Nigeria and the Netherlands, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a release.

The $225,034,247 firm-fixed-price delivery order was issued against a 2017 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (N00019-17-D-5517) to procure 9,999 Lot 7, full-rate production APKWS II units, the Wednesday, February 6 release said.

Work is expected to be completed in September 2020.

While the release said the procurement is “in support of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and the governments of Nigeria and the Netherlands,” the foreign military sales component of the contract was the full value. “Fiscal 2019 procurement of ammunition (Army, Navy and Marine Corps and Air Force); and Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $225,034,247 will be obligated at time of award,” the release said.

APKWS upgrades 2.75-inch (70 mm) rockets to a semi-active laser guided precision weapon. The system is a design conversion for Hydra 70 unguided rockets turning them into low-yield precision-guided munitions to help avoid collateral damage.

Costs for the system appear stable – in June 2018, BAE Systems was awarded a $224 million contract to produce 10,185 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System guidance units.

A-29 Super Tucano propellor spins
A-29 Super Tucano light air support aircraft at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, January 8, 2015. Image: US Air Force/Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan

Nigeria’s Super Tucanos

APKWS is a component of Nigeria’s purchase of 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft. A long-awaited contract for the sale of 12 aircraft was awarded last November, but it did not include weaponry.

However, when the proposed sale was approved by the U.S. State Department in August 2017, the notification delivered to the U.S. Congress included 5,000 Hydra 70 2.75-inch unguided rockets, 400 Laser Guided Rockets including APKWS, as well as 200 Paveway II laser-guided bomb tailkits and 2,000 MK-81 250-lb bombs, and practice rockets and machine gun ammunition.

Nigeria was one of the countries listed in U.S. Department of Defense contract notifications for Hydra rockets in June and September, although it was unclear if this equipment is related to the aircraft sale.

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System seeker
One of four advanced seeker optics on the wing of an Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rocket. Image: BAE Systems

BAE says APKWS is designed to lock on to both moving and stationary targets from over 3 km (1.9 miles) away, using advanced seeker optics on four guidance wings that are deployed after firing. This Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) technology allows the four seekers to work together as a single unit, and BAE says the system has achieved a greater than 93 percent hit rate.

The modular design enables the system to be fitted to existing and new unguided rockets, inserting between the motor and warhead, and has been fitted to more than than 20 aircraft types.

BAE claims the APKWS is the most cost effective laser-guided munition in its class, enabling “a precision-strike capability at a quarter the price of a Brimstone missile.”

It says the production plant in the United States opened in 2016 has a capacity of up to 20,000 units per year.

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