What's a digital age fighting force to do with storehouses full of 2.75-inch unguided, analog air to ground rockets? BAE's Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (it's the smaller projectile on the far right in the image above) turns formerly dumb munitions into precision laser-guided rockets ready for 21st-century warfare.
The beauty of the APKWS is that it requires no hardware upgrade to the aircraft that use it. These particular rockets are fairly universal among American military branches and can be fired from workhorse helicopter platforms like the AH-10 or MH-60 Black Hawk as well as fixed-wing aircraft like the A-10 Warthog or the Harrier "jump jet." The Department of Defense has thousands upon thousands of these conventional, unguided rockets laying around (known as Hydra 70s, they are basically modern variants of the Mk 40 rocket used in the Korean and Vietnam wars). But on a modern battlefield, such unguided rockets are not only somewhat antique -- they're potentially dangerous for close-in friendly ground troops as well as any non-combatants in the area of operations.
Defense technology firm BAE's solution: a laser guidance module that can be retrofitted onto existing rockets already in the arsenal. Tucked between the rocket motor and the small warhead in the nose of the rocket, the guidance system can detect targets "painted" with a laser by forward operators on the ground, the attacking aircraft itself, or other aircraft in the area (that's known as a "buddy lase"). By embedding this small technology package on a proven, battle-tested armament, BAE has figured out how to turn existing stores of dumb weapons into precision, guided smart weapons. That not only allows the armed services to get the most out of money already invested, but it means fewer rockets have to be fired to take out a given target. At just under $28,000 a shot, that makes a real difference.
The lull in Apple announcements isn't helping.