USAF Works Cruise Missile Defense With APKWS Rockets


A F-16C flown by Maj Jeffrey Entine, 85th Flight Test Squadron test pilot, fires a rocket at a test drone at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 12, 2019.

This test successfully demonstrated shooting a small drone at low altitudes.



Video by 1st Lt. Savanah Bray

53d Wing

In an article by Brian W. Everstine published December 23, 2019, the test and its significance was highlighted.

An Air Force F-16 recently shot down a targeting drone with an AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rocket queued by the Viper’s targeting pod for the first time in a demonstration of future cruise missile defense.

The 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., conducted the Dec. 19 test. The APKWS laser-guided rocket was originally developed for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a low-cost, low-collateral weapon. By adapting the rocket for cruise missile defense, it can serve the same role as the much more expensive AIM-120 missile, according to an Air Force release.

“The test was unprecedented and will shape the future of how the Air Force executes CMD,” Col. Ryan Messer, commander of the 53d Wing at Eglin, said in a release. “This is a prime example of how the 53d Wing is using resources readily available to establish innovative ways that enhance combat capabilities for our combat units…..”

The idea of using the APKWS in this role stems from a January 2019 weapons and tactics conference, and was planned with support from across the Air Force, according to Eglin.

“This proof of concept can have implications for homeland defense missions, combined defense of the Arabian Gulf, and beyond,” Messer said.