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Ukraine receives APKWS rockets from US to boost its defense capabilities

APKWS: Ukraine's New Weapon Against Russian Aggression

Ukraine has been facing a relentless military threat from Russia since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and supported separatist rebels in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Despite international sanctions and diplomatic pressure, Russia has not ceased its aggression and has amassed tens of thousands of troops near the border with Ukraine. In response, Ukraine has sought to strengthen its defense capabilities and receive military assistance from its allies, especially the United States and Germany. One of the most significant weapons that Ukraine has acquired recently is the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a laser-guided rocket that can hit targets with high accuracy and low collateral damage. This article will explain what APKWS is, how it works, why it is useful, how Ukraine got it, how it is using it, and what are the challenges and opportunities for Ukraine with this weapon.

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What is APKWS?

APKWS is a design conversion of Hydra 70 unguided rockets with a laser guidance kit to turn them into precision-guided munitions (PGMs). APKWS is approximately one-third the cost and one-third the weight of the current inventory of laser-guided weapons, has a lower yield more suitable for avoiding collateral damage, and takes one quarter of the time for ordnance personnel to load and unload.

How does it work?

APKWS uses the Distributed Aperture Semi-Active Laser Seeker (DASALS) technology. This system allows a laser seeker to be located in the leading edge of each of the forward control canards, working in unison as if they were a single seeker. This configuration allows existing warheads from the Hydra 70 system to be used without the need for a laser seeker in the missile nose. The APKWS system is composed of the launch platform, rockets equipped with the WGU-59/B mid-body guidance unit, the lengthened 7-tube LAU-68 F/A rocket launcher, the SCS 7 aiming cue (not needed for attack helicopters), and Fastpack PA-140 and CNU-711/E storage kits for rockets and guidance kits, respectively, to ensure they are safe in the field.

Why is it useful?

APKWS is useful because it bridges the gap between the Hydra 70 and AGM-114 Hellfire systems and provides a cost-effective method of engaging lightly armored point targets. APKWS is also versatile and can be launched from various platforms, such as helicopters, fixed-wing aircrafts, or ground vehicles. APKWS can also engage multiple targets simultaneously or in rapid succession with a single laser designator. APKWS can hit moving or stationary targets with high precision and minimal collateral damage.

How did Ukraine get APKWS?

U.S. aid package

Ukraine received APKWS as part of an aid package announced by the U.S. in August 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in July 2022. The package included $60 million worth of lethal weapons and $125 million worth of non-lethal equipment. The lethal weapons included Javelin anti-tank missiles, Mark VI patrol boats, counter-artillery radars, secure communications gear, electronic warfare systems, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, mortars, and ammunition. The non-lethal equipment included medical supplies, night vision devices, bomb disposal equipment, radios, body armor, helmets, and binoculars. The Germany's donation

Ukraine also received APKWS as a donation from Germany in January 2023, following a promise made in August 2022. Germany handed over to Ukraine 20 70-mm rocket launchers for APKWS missiles based on pickups, as well as other military equipment, such as armored vehicles, trucks, drones, and anti-drone systems. The German donation was seen as a gesture of solidarity and support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression.

How is Ukraine using APKWS?

Against air targets

Ukraine has tested and used APKWS against various air targets, such as Russian reconnaissance drones and loitering munitions. In November 2022, Ukraine conducted a series of tests with APKWS, destroying five out of five targets, including an Orlan-10 drone and a Lancet loitering munition. In April 2023, Ukraine's 37th Marine Brigade fired APKWS from Humvees at Russian targets in Kherson Oblast, including a tower-mounted sensor. APKWS has proven to be highly effective and accurate in hitting air targets with minimal collateral damage.

Against ground targets

Ukraine has also used APKWS against various ground targets, such as lightly armored vehicles, infantry fighting vehicles, pillboxes, and other fortifications. APKWS can hit moving or stationary targets with high precision and low yield, avoiding excessive damage to the surrounding environment. APKWS can also engage multiple targets simultaneously or in rapid succession with a single laser designator. Ukraine has three types of warheads for APKWS: high-explosive, flechette, and shaped-charge. Depending on the target and the situation, Ukraine can choose the most suitable warhead for its mission.

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On different platforms

Ukraine has the ability to launch APKWS from different platforms, such as helicopters, fixed-wing aircrafts, or ground vehicles. Ukraine has received APKWS-armed Humvees from the United States and APKWS pickup trucks from Germany. Ukraine can also mount APKWS on its own helicopters, such as the Mi-24 or the Mi-8. Ukraine can also use its own or allied UAVs to designate targets for APKWS with laser pointers. This gives Ukraine flexibility and versatility in using APKWS for different scenarios and terrains.

What are the challenges and opportunities for Ukraine with APKWS?

Technical and logistical issues

One of the challenges for Ukraine with APKWS is to ensure that it has enough rockets, guidance kits, launchers, designators, and storage kits to sustain its operations. APKWS is relatively cheap compared to other precision-guided munitions, but it still requires funding and maintenance. Ukraine also needs to train its personnel to use APKWS effectively and safely. Another challenge is to coordinate the use of APKWS with other weapons systems and platforms, such as artillery, missiles, radars, drones, and electronic warfare systems.

Political and diplomatic implications

Another challenge for Ukraine with APKWS is to manage the political and diplomatic implications of using this weapon against Russia. Russia may perceive APKWS as a provocation or an escalation of the conflict, and may respond with more aggression or retaliation. Russia may also try to undermine or sabotage Ukraine's access to APKWS by pressuring its suppliers or allies. On the other hand, APKWS may also create opportunities for Ukraine to deter Russian aggression or to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the conflict. APKWS may also enhance Ukraine's credibility and reputation as a reliable partner and ally in the region and beyond.

Future prospects and cooperation

A final challenge and opportunity for Ukraine with APKWS is to explore the future prospects and cooperation possibilities with this weapon system. APKWS is a relatively new and evolving technology that may offer new capabilities and features in the future. For example, APKWS may be integrated with artificial intelligence or networked systems to improve its performance and efficiency. Ukraine may also seek to cooperate with other countries that use or produce APKWS, such as the United States, Germany, Poland, Turkey, or India. This may create opportunities for joint training, exercises, research, development, or procurement of APKWS.


In conclusion, APKWS is a valuable weapon system for Ukraine that can help it defend itself against Russian aggression and achieve its strategic objectives. APKWS is a laser-guided rocket that can hit targets with high accuracy and low collateral damage. It can be launched from various platforms, such as helicopters, fixed-wing aircrafts, or ground vehicles. It can also engage multiple targets simultaneously or in rapid succession with a single laser designator. Ukraine received APKWS from the United States and Germany as part of their military assistance and solidarity. Ukraine has used APKWS against various air and ground targets, such as drones, vehicles, and fortifications. However, Ukraine also fa


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