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Army Ready to Upgrade AH-64E Apache Sensors

by Matt Cox on June 26, 2013

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The U.S. Army hopes to equip its first unit of Apache helicopters with the newest daytime sensors by this time next year.

The Apache Sensors Product Office recently accepted delivery of Lockheed Martin’s new Modernized Day Sensor Assembly Laser Rangefinder Designator, or LRFD, the first component to be fielded in the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly.

The modernized LRFD is the first phase of upgrades for the M-DSA program, and will provide enhanced performance to the MTADS/PNVS system, Army officials maintain.

“This laser kit, what we call M-DSA phase one, is an investment by the Army and the Program Executive Office for Aviation, and we’re looking forward to the reliability and maintainability improvements that this laser will bring to the MTADS system,” said  Lt. Col. Steven Van Riper, product manager for Apache Sensor, in an Army press release. “The maintainers will have less of a burden when it comes to keeping the system up and fully operational, while our aircrews will be able to reap the benefits of the performance improvements.”

The new sensors are part of a duel contract the Army awarded to Lockheed Martin in February worth $162 million.

The current laser features a tactical wavelength in the system, Cold War technology that’s expensive to maintain. The new laser incorporates a second EyeSafe wavelength, the newest technology available. It replaces the old flash lamp technology to a more reliable, more robust diode pump laser technology.

The diode pump is the primary driver of increasing the Army’s reliability and maintainability numbers, Army officials maintain. Phase one will be fielded later this year and will be fully capable by 2016, according to Matt Hoffman, director of MTADS/PNVS programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

The Army’s goal is to retrofit the M-DSA and equip the AH-64E Apache units first.

The second phase, scheduled to begin in 2016, will include all the remaining elements in the DSA such as a high definition color television, laser pointer marker, upgraded laser spot tracker, and a state-of-the-art inertia measuring unit for stability and extended range in the system.

“We are meeting all of our milestones in terms of production ramp rate, moving towards maintaining our production rate of over 20 lasers per month,” Van Riper said. “We’re stepping up to that incrementally using a very deliberate production engineering process.”

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