13 Aug 12. After decades of development, the U.S. missile defense program is facing a first-of-a-kind challenge: balancing the need to continue developing and testing ballistic-missile-defeating technologies against the growing demand to field current-generation systems already proven. Until recently, Missile Defense Agency (MDA) directors have spent much of their time preaching faith in missile defense technologies. Now, however, the hit-to-kill concept has been proven, at least in tests and some limited operational engagements. Therefore, the new MDA director, likely to be U.S. Navy Rear Adm. James Syring, will face the challenge not of fighting for the technology, but of juggling continued investment in refining missile defense capabilities along with the increasing pressure to field them. This will come amid a massive downturn in defense spending, as the U.S. political apparatus focuses on decreasing the national debt, and plummeting morale at the MDA. Thousands of agency staffers are being shifted out of Washington, the government has mandated a reduction in the number of support personnel, and MDA employees in recent years have worked under the harsh—some say abusive—management style of the current director, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly. Against this backdrop, however, the “threat gets a vote,” in what lies ahead, says one prominent expert in the field. North Korea and Iran continue to pursue long-range missiles as well as nuclear warhead technology and advanced countermeasures. China’s work on the so-called DF-21 antiship ballistic missile is also worrying top Pentagon officials because it could threaten Washington’s ability to place aircraft carrier strike groups where needed in the Pacific. The Pentagon is said to be demanding that the MDA increase its focus on developing the capability to test defenses to the DF-21. The agency must balance learning from testing against showcasing its capabilities in hopes of forming a deterrent. Additionally, other nations are building stockpiles of current-generation, short- and medium-range missiles that can be countered by U.S. defensive systems fielded today. The danger of this “raid threat” is that the missiles proliferate far more quickly than the U.S. can deploy a commensurate defense. (Source: Aviation Week)
13 Aug 12. The U.S. Navy has authorized full-rate production of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS®), BAE Systems’ affordable and versatile laser-guided rocket system. Under the contract, the company will make deliveries to support the U.S. Marine Corps, which is already effectively utilizing APKWS in theater.
“Our APKWS technology has been successfully used in combat numerous times since its deployment in March,” said John Watkins, director of Precision Guidance Solutions for BAE Systems. “BAE Systems designed the APKWS technology to fill the gap between the Hellfire missile and unguided rockets. Today, the weapon is doing its job providing our warfighters with a precise and reliable rapid-fire missile system, especially effective in the difficult terrain of Afghanistan.”
APKWS converts the Hydra 70 unguided rocket into a laser-guided rocket through the addition of a mid-body guidance unit developed by BAE Systems. The system, which is the only 2.75-inch (70 mm) laser-guided rocket program of record for the U.S. government, allows armed forces to accurately engage targets in areas where the threat of non-combat causalities and collateral damage prevented warfighters from doing so in the past. In addition to being precise, the weapon is affordable and versatile. APKWS is approximately one-third of the cost and one-third of the weight of the existing inventory of forward firing laser-guided precision munitions and takes one quarter of the time for ordnance personnel to use. The weapon can be fired from any helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft that can fire Hydra 70 rockets and BAE Systems is supporting U.S. government plans to expand its use to othe