Home Air F-16 downs cruise missile with APKWS rocket in proof-of-concept test

F-16 downs cruise missile with APKWS rocket in proof-of-concept test

Photo: US Air Force

The US Air Force’s 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron has demonstrated a new concept of cruise missile defense as an F-16 fighter jet used an AGR-20A Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) laser-guided rocket to shoot down a subscale drone.

The December 19 test proved rockets queued from an F-16 targeting pod as viable munitions to perform cruise missile defense.

“The test was unprecedented and will shape the future of how the Air Force executes CMD,” said Col. Ryan Messer, commander, 53d Wing. “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.”

Originally developed as a low cost, low collateral damage air-to-ground weapon for use in Afghanistan and Iraq, adapting the AGR-20A for counter-air use is momentous. The AGR-20A is a fraction of the cost of an AIM-120 missile commonly used for cruise missile defense. Additionally, the AGR-20A can be loaded faster than an AIM-120 and an aircraft can carry two-to-three times the number of weapons.

Finding a more cost-efficient CMD weapon was the #2 of 76 Tactics Improvement Proposals following the January 2019 Weapons and Tactics Conference, known as WEPTAC. The 85th TES planned and conducted the test with support across the Air Force and contract partners ensuring efficacy and potential prior to execution.

“This proof of concept can have implications for homeland defense missions, combined defense of the Arabian Gulf, and beyond,” said Messer. “I am exceptionally proud of the efforts of the 85th TES and the units across the 53d Wing that made this possible.”