US-made APKWS II laser-guided rocket on Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2

PANAGYURISHTE, ($1=1.85 Bulgarian Levs) — Sending Western weapons to Ukraine is a challenge not only for logistics capabilities but also for their integration. Officially, Washington plans to send “laser-guided rocket equipment” to Kyiv. Nearly 48 hours ago, the Pentagon officially confirmed that these would be Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II or APKWS II rocket worth a total of $ 22.6 million.

US sends to Ukraine 70mm APKWS missiles, Puma UAVs, and HMMWVs
Photo credit: Defence & Security Monitor

If the logistics have already worked out well in recent months [USA – Germany to the arms depot in Stuttgart], then specifically [and not only] in this case remains the question of what platform will be launched donated APKWS II.

APKWS II can be launched from the air. There are several known platforms: different variants of already current rotary-wing aircraft [UH-1Y Venom, AH-1W SuperCobra, AH-1Z Viper, Bell 407GT, AH-64 Apache, Eurocopter Tiger, MH-60S / R Seahawk] or with fixed-wing [AV-8B Harrier II, OV-10 Bronco, F-16 Fighting Falcon, A-10 Thunderbolt II], as well as on platforms currently under development.

As can be seen from the listed platforms, Ukraine does not have any of them. Experts suggest that the Ukrainians may try to integrate APKWS II on the Mi-17 Hip helicopter, which the United States has already provided to Ukraine from the military equipment used in Afghanistan. The problem is that these helicopters are not equipped with a laser pointer to guide the missile. Of course, there is a second option – the rocket to be fired from a helicopter and a laser from the ground to guide the rocket.. This is unlikely!

APKWS II on Bayraktar TB2

Bayraktar offers folding wing TB3 UAVs to Japanese Izumo destroyer
Photo credit: Wikipedia

There is no known information so far that APKWS II was fired from a drone. But if we turn “out of the box” and change our minds from another angle, Bayraktar TB2 is the most suitable and possible candidate for launching APKWS II. Ukraine has two dozen of these drones [although there are data on at least six downed Bayraktr TB2 by the Russians] and they have important characteristics.

Bayraktar TB2 has an integrated laser pointer, can carry sizes and weights comparable to those of American rockets [in this case APKWS II], and already launches laser-guided rockets [tested only with Turkish missiles]. Moreover, Bayraktar TB2 should carry the Turkish CIRIT rocket from Roketsan, which is the closest in terms of APKWS II. For soft to lightly armored targets APKWS II is a perfect weapon and any drone made in Turkey can theoretically carry many of them.

More about APKWS II

APKWS was created to convert an unguided missile [in this case a Hydra 70 missile with laser guidance] into a precision-guided missile. According to official data from the Pentagon, APKWS II is the only 70mm laser-guided rocket in the inventory of the US Army. APKWS II works in integration with Hydra 70 and thus Hudra70 receives laser search devices for each of the four pop-up front fins that unfold after the rocket is launched. I.e. – in plain language APKWS II converts ‘dumb rockets’ into ‘smart rockets.’

US-made APKWS II laser-guided missile on Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2
Photo: BAE System

The dimensions of APKWS II are as follows: length: 73.8 in [1.87 m], diameter: 2.75 in [70 mm] and Wingspan: 9.55 in [24.3 cm]. According to official data, the weight of the rocket is 32 lb [15 kg]. APKWS II can develop a top speed of 1,000 m / s [3,600 km / h; 2,200 mph; Mach 2.9]. Depending on the platform, the rocket has a different range: if it is launched from an aircraft with a rotary-wing, the operational range is from 1,100 to 5,000 meters, if it is launched from a fixed-wing, the operational range is from 2,000 to 11,000 meters.

As already mentioned, the guidance system is of the semi-active laser homing type, and the possible error radius is within 5 meters. The rocket is powered by Existing Hydra 70 motors and is armed with an Existing Hydra 70 warhead.

APKWS II is manufactured by BAE Systems and has been in service with the US Army since 2012.

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