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14 June 2016

Eurosatory 2016: Lockheed Martin Upgrades Apache Sensor Capabilities

In a programme initiated in 2010 and now entering its second phase of capability development, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is modernising the sensor performance and sustainability for the fleet of approximately 1,500 Apache attack helicopters in service with the US Army (which accounts for half that number) and fourteen additional users around the world.

Rita Flaherty, Business Development Director, Fire Control for Lockheed Martin, told reporters at Eurosatory in Paris on June 14 that the modernisation programme consists of two principal elements: the Modernised Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) and a High Reliability Turret.

The M-DSA brings near infrared and colour capability to the Apache targeting systems, adds a high resolution imagery capacity and supports blending of medium and narrow fields of vision in the infrared and visible light spectra. An inertial measurement unit (IMU) provides for better system stability at long range and the extended range ‘picture-in-picture’  capability gives the aircrew far better image resolution at far greater range than the existing TADS/PNVS targeting system, says Flaherty. Fixed wing pilots already benefit from the extended range ‘picture-in-picture’ capability, Flaherty said – the M-DSA programme now extends those to Apache crews.

Adding an eye-safe lasing capability and a gimbal-mounted laser pointer marker mean that operators can now conduct operations in an urban environment or training exercises that were previously impossible due to safety considerations, she added.

Flaherty describes the High Reliability Turret as “the carrying case” for the targeting system and explains it was developed “in direct response to user feedback.” Offering better flexibility of maintenance by being constructed in several rather than a single line replaceable module, the turret addresses 80% of legacy failure modes and increases turret reliability and availability by over 40%. Improved maintainability will result in an estimated cost saving of $500 million for the US Army alone.

As if those savings were not already enough, Flaherty also highlighted the Apache Performance-Based Logistics programme (which has already won a prestigious ‘best of breed’ DoD award in two of the last five years) which can also be made available – and customised where necessary – to other Apache operators. With a historically proven 92% improvement in mean time between failures and a proactive obsolescence management programme that has saved US operators an estimated $200 million in the last ten years, that would seem to be a solution pushing on a wide open door!