The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is loaded onto an F/A-18 to prepare for the weapon's initial deployment with the aircraft in March 2018. (U.S. Navy photo)

Marines complete first F/A-18, APKWS operational flights

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, Patuxent River, Md. –  The Marine Corps’ F/A-18 squadrons recently flew with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a highly accurate 2.75 rocket that provides air-to-ground weapon support.

APKWS allows the F/A-18A-D to maintain a forward-firing, moving-target capability while increasing available ordnance per aircraft and provides a more efficient weapons match versus target sets currently seen in theater.

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is loaded onto an F/A-18 to prepare for the weapon’s initial deployment with the aircraft in March 2018. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This is an incredible weapons system that our most experienced pilots down to the newest pilots can effectively employ,” said Lt. Col Jon “TAG” Curtis, commanding officer of one of the F/A-18 squadrons.

The low-cost 2.75-inch rocket has a laser guidance kit that gives it precision-kill capability. It has ability to destroy targets while limiting collateral damage in close combat.

Curtis’ squadron received the new weapon system in February and completed ground training and in-flight training to ensure the weapon worked effectively. All of the weapons fired during training directly impacted the final aim point.

“The PMA-242 APKWS and PMA-265 F/A-18 joint Integrated Product Team (IPT), with key stakeholders (Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft and Weapons Divisions, VX-31/VX-9, Marine Corps headquarters and BAE Systems), rapidly developed and executed an integration plan, cutting normal integration time by nine months and saving $4.9 million of allocated funds,” said Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Ropp, APKWS deputy program manager

The team established a land-based integration program to expedite fielding with a limited employment envelope using a tailored approach in engineering, logistics, and contracting to deliver units to theater as quickly as possible. This effort supported on time training and operational employment of APKWS for the deploying squadron in OIR, exemplifying “Speed to the Fleet”, he said.

The F/A-18 is the second Navy fixed-wing platform to carry APKWS. It is also employed from the AV-8B as well as rotary-wing platforms including the UH-1Y, AH-1Z and MH-60S/R.   The Navy and Marine Corps have fired thousands of combined fixed- and rotary-wing shots and hundreds in combat scenarios.

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