The Iraqi Army is in the process of certifying BAE System Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) on its Bell IA-407 helicopters, Steve Suttles, Bell Helicopter vice-president for Middle East and Africa, told IHS Jane's during the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) show held in South Africa on 14-16 September.
The Iraqi Army received 24 IA-407s and has been flying them armed with .50-calibre machine guns and 70 mm Hydra air-to-surface rockets. The addition of the APKWS, a laser-guided version of the 70 mm rocket, adds a relatively low-cost precision strike capability.
Suttles said that, while the APKWS does not have the anti-armour capability of the more expensive AGM-114 Hellfire missile, Bell is recommending the weapon or many tactical situations. "If you have a horde of tanks coming across your border, then you need Hellfires, but if you are worried about something less than that, then we think the APKWS is more than good enough," he said.
Armed 407s are also operated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the form of the NorthStar Aviation-modified 407MHR, several of which have been deployed to southern Yemen as part of the Saudi-led military intervention in that country. Suttles said the helicopters had proved remarkably reliable during the deployment, saying: "Even in combat, operational readiness rates have been about 90%."
Bell has its own armed version called the 407GT, which is certified to use the APKWS, but not the Hellfire. Although the latter weapon has been certified for the 407MHR by NorthStar, Suttles said that Bell would have to certify the missile on the 407GT itself as it cannot endorse the engineering work carried out by other companies.
He added that one Middle Eastern and two North African countries are close to ordering the 407GT, but said he could not name them at this stage.