US Air force has add-on plug and play laser guidance for converting unguided missiles at one third the cost of Hellfire missiles

Plug and play addon laser guidance converts unguided missiles. The BAE system is actually a mid-body guidance kit that converts unguided rockets into “smart” laser-seeking missiles. The system converts a 2.75-inch Hydra rocket into a guided munition by adding a semi-active laser guidance and control mid-section.

It’s a low-cost option for precision strike, costing some $30,000 apiece — roughly a third of the price tag of an AGM-114 Hellfire missile made by Lockheed Martin Corp. While not as powerful as the Hellfire, the system is effective at soft, light targets such as wheeled vehicles and small boats.

The Marine Corps recently fielded the system on its AV-8B Harrier jump jet, the Army has deployed it on its Apache AH-64 helicopter gunships and the Navy has also used the technology on its aircraft, according to the company.

“The APKWS rocket’s innovative ‘plug and play’ design makes it possible to deploy these systems on a variety of platforms,” David Harrold, director of precision guidance solutions at BAE Systems, said in the release.

The Air Force fielded the initial units to fulfill an urgent operational need for F-16 and A-10 aircraft, and it has already successfully used the weapon in combat operations.

The deployment marks the first time these systems have been used in combat operations from an Air Force fixed-wing platform and comes on the heels of the U.S. Marine Corps fielding the rockets on AV-8B fixed-wing aircraft. The APKWS rocket, a mid-body guidance kit that transforms a standard unguided munition into a precision laser-guided rocket, has proven highly successful for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps since 2012 and has also been used by U.S. Army Apache helicopters in combat.