Since the Boeing AH-64 Apache’s introduction into service in the mid-1980s, the attack helicopter’s sensor suite has undergone a number of improvements, the most significant of which was the M-TADS/PNVS (modernised target acquisition and designation system/pilot night vision system, also known as Arrowhead) fielded from 2005.
Lockheed Martin (Hall 6, Stand K201) is now introducing another major change to the system that not only places the main constituents into a new High Reliability Turret installation, but also replaces the daylight sensor group with a more capable system called M-DSA (modernised day sensor assembly). The previous DSA was a monochrome unit with two selectable fields of view (4° and 0.9°).
M-DSA not only sports full-colour high-definition capability, but adds a near-infrared (NIR) channel for low light conditions.
The system also offers three fields of view: medium (9.32°), narrow (2.5°) and ultra-narrow (0.64°). The medium and narrow fields are identical to those offered by the accompanying M-NSA (modernised night sensor assembly), allowing a blending of imagery between the two systems.
Technology from Lockheed Martin’s Sniper XR targeting pod has been incorporated, the ‘XR’ algorithm suite providing longer-range image resolution, and the ability to present a picture-in- picture display of detailed imagery.
Other features of the M-DSA are the addition of an inertial measurement unit to improve stability, and therefore effective range, a laser pointer marker, and adoption of an eye-safe laser to allow both operations and training to be undertaken in environments previously denied to the Apache for laser use. At the same time, the system has been made more maintainable, with the ability to perform some tasks on the flightline. This results in reduced costs and increased availability.
M-DSA is being introduced in two phases, the first replacing the laser rangefinder/designator with the eye-safe system. This was contracted in November 2010, and first flew at Redstone Arsenal in February 2014. The second phase – covering NIR, colour and laser pointer – was contracted in December 2015.
While the US Army is the initial recipient, the M-DSA is also available for export: the first confirmed customer is Qatar, which signed a contract to buy 24 AH-64Es last week.