REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.–The Army Apache Project Office, Army testers and Lockheed Martin [LMT] brought the future to life in a test flight of the AH-64E Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) this week.

This improvement completes the modernization of the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) that began in 2005 with the upgrade of the forward-looking infrared.

This modernized day sensor is the next phase of modernization.

“The second phase goal is to award a production contract for FY ’15 for fielding in FY ’17,” said Lt. Col. Steven Van Riper, Army Apache Sensors Product Manager.

The Apache carried a production representative prototype sensor that was first flown here Feb. 14. The sensor demonstrated the system’s maturity and showed visitors the advanced capabilities it brings the M-TADS/PVNS, the eyes of the Apache.

Apache Helicopter with M-TADS/PNVS On Nose Photo: Lockheed Martin
Apache Helicopter with M-TADS/PNVS On Nose
Photo: Lockheed Martin

With a high-resolution, high-definition color capability, Apache crews can better coordinate with soldiers on the ground and readily distinguish what they say when they call for following a red truck, for example, or to check the top of a yellow building.

Lockheed Martin M-TADS/PNVS Director Matt Hoffman said the new sensor replaces 30-year old technology that has had a lot of wear and tear and obsolescence issues that are increasingly difficult to overcome.

Experimental Test Pilot and Test Director Warrant Officer 5 Paul Steele said the day sensor would replace the current monochrome with something that will really help them conduct missions more quickly and effectively.

The test pilots “believe this will enable some changes…evolution of tactics, techniques and procedures,” Van Riper said.

Right now and for the remainder of the testing, the sensor will be wrung out to ensure software and hardware are properly integrated into the system and that the ranges and resolution are as expected and required. Environmental testing will also be done, such as examining vibration, electromagnetic interference.

The modernized day sensor will provide the Apache crew color in the cockpit, not the grayish colors in the current system. Crews will be able to see a blended image with the M-TADS Forward Looking Infrared that provides a clearer view of civilian and military lighting on a single display. There is also a new laser pointer marker to more accurately coordinate with ground troops. The multi-mode sensor includes an eye-safe laser for training and urban combat situations.

The new sensor also addresses obsolescence and reliability issues.

“There’s almost a three times reliability improvement over legacy systems,” Hoffman said. “Operational readiness rates are expected to increase significantly.”

The Feb. 17 flight test was conducted by Team Apache Sensors that includes Army Aviation Flight Test Directorate and the Army Apache Attack Helicopter Project Management Office on Redstone Arsenal and Lockheed Martin, for Army officials, reporters and others attending the Association of the United States Army Winter Symposium here.