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US Navy to buy 7,000 rockets from UK arms maker

Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rockets on a US Marine Corps aircraft. (File photo)

The US Navy has awarded British weapons manufacturer BAE Systems a $175 million contract to produce more than 7,000 laser-guided rockets.

Dubbed advanced precision kill weapon system (APKWS), the rockets are standard 2.75-inch (70-millimeter) missiles that have been transformed into precision munitions by installing a guidance kit between their warhead and engine compartments.

BAE Systems is ramping up production to build toward an annual level of more than 20,000 units, with officials noting that the US contract might be extended for 17,500 APKWS.

The company has reportedly began delivering the rockets and hopes to fulfill the contract ahead of schedule by coordinating production in facilities in New Hampshire and Texas as well as its supplier chain.

APKWS rockets are the only guided 2.75-inch variant the US Defense Department has approved for use onboard a host of rotary- and fixed-wing military aircraft.

The US Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force are among the known employers of the APKWS . The rocket is also available for purchase by foreign countries via the US Foreign Military Sales process.

Despite having extensive deals with the US and its allies, mainly Saudi Arabia, BAE has been struggling to stay afloat.

The company announced in October last year that it was going to cut about 2,000 jobs, largely due to the weaker demand for Hawk and Eurofighter Typhoon fighter planes.

The company has come under international pressure to cease arms deals with the Saudi regime, which uses British-made weapons against the people of Yemen as part of years-long military campaign.

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