New Proximity Fuse Powers APKWS Anti-Drone Capabilities

BAE Systems announced on Monday that it had conducted several successful precision strike tests of its Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System against Class 2 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The tests, carried out at the Yuma Proving Grounds, demonstrate the precision-guided rockets’ new capability to engage and destroy unmanned aerial vehicles.

Facilitating the new capability is a newly developed proximity fuze for APKWS rockets, jointly developed by L3Harris Technologies and Technology Service Corporation, capable of both proximity detonation and point detonation modes. BAE Systems states that the new fuze is a drop-in replacement for the existing M423 fuzes used in the rockets, with the rockets used in the tests retaining their standard M151 warheads and Mk66 motors.

BAE claims that the proximity fuze-equipped rockets can engage and destroy unmanned aerial systems at a fraction of the cost of current counter-UAS systems. According to the company, anti-drone engagements with APKWS also saves time, with the rockets’ semi-active laser guidance after launch bypassing the need for a target lock-on before launch with a conventional missile.

BAE Systems video of APKWS proximity fuze testing

“Unmanned Aerial Vehicles of all sizes are a growing threat increasingly deployed by adversaries around the globe,” said Greg Procopio, director of Precision Guidance and Sensing Systems at BAE Systems. “The flexibility and affordability of APKWS rockets make them a good choice for taking out small, tactical military drones. 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.”

The development of a proximity fuze for the APKWS would also be a major boon for current United States Air Force experiments with using the laser-guided rockets for cruise missile defense. The USAF has explored use of the APKWS in the role due to most tactical aircraft being able to carry two to three more times more rockets than AIM-120 AMRAAMs at a lower cost per launch, and the improvement in probability of kill per launch the proximity fuze offers would be difficult to pass up for the mission.