FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) – Apache pilots from Hunter Army Airfield along with the South Carolina National Guard are at Fort Stewart this month performing annual gunnery exercises, but this year they get to train with new laser-guided rockets.

“Today’s training is all about readiness and keeping our aircraft and our unit in our organization ready for whatever the nation needs,” said Lt. Col. Phil Lamb, the Squadron Commander for 3-17 Cavalry.

Gunnery is the most important training for an Apache pilot to prepare for war and this is the first time they’re training with the new rockets at Fort Stewart. It’s part of the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), equipping a 70 millimeter rocket to follow a laser to its exact target.

“Having this precision guided rocket that is just a laser-guided… 10-pounder that we’re shooting today, we’re just taking a dumb munition and making it smart,” said Squadron Standardization Officer Patrick Braman, “Just adding a guidance unit to it and it’s able to track our laser and give us pinpoint accuracy.”

“What’s changed is now instead of using this large and expensive munition we can outfit this rocket tube with smaller but still precise laser guided munitions,” said Lamb.

Previously, the laser at the front of the apache would guide a much larger missile known as the hellfire.

“Now we can use hellfires for what they’re designed for… structures, bunkers, and heavy armored vehicles,” said Braman.

“Lessening collateral damage and the opportunity to not hit the target that we’re aimed at,” said Lamb, “It is a more precise munition, a less expensive munition, which is a win-win for all of us.”

It also contributes to a pilot’s confidence.

“It just gives the guys the confidence that they know how, if it comes down to it, then we can send them out there on their own and we don’t have to worry about it at all,” said Armament Specialist Sgt. Evan Caughy.

While gunnery allows Apache pilots to participate in other exercises such as combine fire exercises, after this training, they will be able to use these laser-guided rockets anywhere they may be called to protect their guys on the ground.