US Navy Seahawk achieves breakthrough loading both Hellfire missiles and APKWS II

The U.S. Navy achieved what it describes “as an operational breakthrough” July 12 as its MH-60R Seahawk helicopter was loaded with both AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) for the first time.

The next-generation submarine hunter and surface attack helicopter from “Swamp Foxes” of Helicopter Attack Squadron (HSM) 74 was loaded while the Ike Carrier Strike Group was transiting through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb.

The APKWS II is a laser-guided rocket similar to standard Hellfire missiles. The new system serves as a low-cost, high-accuracy variant to the Hellfire missiles previously used against lightly armored targets.

“For MH-60R aircraft, the APKWS II adds a medium-range guided option to its robust weapons footprint,” said Lt. Brian Crosby, HSM 74 tactics officer. “The MH-60R will employ APKWS II along with its existing Hellfire missiles and crew-served door guns, providing the warfare commander with a lethal and effective helicopter weapons system.”

The APKWS II is a design conversion of an unguided Hydra 2.75-inch rocket with a laser guidance kit to give it precision-kill capability. It is intended as an inexpensive way to destroy targets while limiting collateral damage in close combat.

The guidance section is placed between the legacy 10-pound high-explosive war­head and the Mk66 Mod 4 rocket motor. Production began in 2011 while first tests were completed in January 2012 on AH-1W and UH-1Y helicopters. Integration onto MH-60S helicopters was completed in March 2014.

The helicopters of the Swamp Foxes serve to bridge the gap between long-range weapons and the crew-served weapons aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike).

Swing loaded, the MH-60R has both the range and bulk of the Hellfire with the addition of the lighter and more numerous APKWS II. This means both small, close-range watercraft and farther, heavier targets can be effectively neutralized by one crew on one platform.

Swamp Foxes are also the first squadron on the East Coast to have the software capable of supporting both weapons systems on one helicopter. They are the first to put their training and their equipment to the test.

“This system has been briefed up to the highest levels of the Navy, and everyone has been extremely pleased with how HSM-74 has been able to utilize and prove the weapons,” said Cmdr. Daniel Testa, commanding officer of HSM-74. “We’ve well surpassed all goals that we’ve set.”