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US approves sale to Qatar of 5,000 guided rockets for Apache helicopters

The U.S. State Department approved the $300 million sale to Qatar of 5,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System guided rockets for its Apache helicopters, a Defense Security Cooperation Agency release said.

The potential sale includes 5,000 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II Guidance Sections; 5,000 high explosive warheads; and 5,000 MK66-4 2.75 inch rocket motors, the Monday, April 9 release said, adding that it would contribute to Qatar’s goal of modernizing its military by providing an additional capability to its new AH-64E Apache helicopter fleet.

The sale also includes inert rocket motors and warheads, support equipment, spares, training, and other elements of program support.

“Qatar is an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Persian Gulf region,” DSCA said. “Our mutual defense interests anchor our relationship and the Qatar Emiri Air Force (QEAF) plays a predominant role in Qatar’s defense.”

“The APKWS will provide Qatar with a low-cost precision strike capability, decreasing collateral damage and expanding its options for counterterrorism operations,” DSCA added.

The principal contractor is BAE Systems.

Emir of Qatar meets US General Joseph Votel
Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, shakes hands with US Army General Joseph Votel, commander, US Central Command, on arrival at MacDill Air Force Base, April, 6, 2018. Image: US Air Force/TSgt. Dana Flamer

Like its Gulf neighbours, Qatar has signed a range of big-ticket defense deals around the world in recent months, including 28 NH90 military helicopters and 16 Airbus H125 training helicoptersarmed drones, armored vehicles and ships from Turkey24 Typhoon fighter jets, missiles and bombs from the UK, and 12 Rafale aircraft, 490 armored vehicles from France. Qatar is also in talks to purchase S-400 missile defense system from Russia.

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System

The BAE Systems-developed Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System is a laser guidance system that can be fitted to 2.75 inch (70 mm) rockets.

The system is a design conversion of Hydra 70 unguided rockets turning them into precision-guided munitions with a low yield to help avoid collateral damage.

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 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 if they were a single unit.

The system can target both moving and stationary targets in open or confined areas.

BAE says rockets have achieved a greater than 93 percent hit rate in combat when fired from rotary- and fixed-wing platforms, and the system has been fitted to more than than 20 aircraft types.

The modular design enables the system to be fitted to existing and new unguided rockets, inserting between the motor and warhead.

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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