Defence contractor Lockheed Martin has conducted a series of test flights to demonstrate a new low-light-level sensor system for the US Army Arrowhead-equipped AH-64D Apache helicopters.

Integrated into the modernised-pilot night-vision sensor (M-PNVS) system, the visible / near infrared (V/NIR) sensor will provide the helicopter with the ability to blend V/NIR sensor imagery with M-PNVS forward-looking infrared (FLIR) imagery to improve situational awareness in low-light-level conditions

The sensor will also allow aviators to see laser pointers, improving coordination with ground units.

Director of the PNVS programme at Lockheed Martin, Jack McClafferty, said that the modernised PNVS sensor will give the Apache pilots remarkable situational awareness at night time and in adverse environmental conditions.

“Now, with the blending of the V/NIR sensor imagery and the FLIR imagery, the pilots will have an unprecedented view of their surroundings,” McClafferty said.

The $9.4m contract for the V/NIR proof-of-principle phase for the M-TADS/PNVS was awarded in 2007 to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control by the Apache programme executive office in Huntsville, AL.

Follow-on qualification and flight tests are scheduled for later this year to complete the development programme.

Lockheed Martin will produce the V/NIR lens and serve as the system integrator, while Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems & Sensors in Akron, OH, will provide the system’s camera.

The production contracts for this sensor are expected to equip ten battalions, or 240 ship sets plus spares with the first deliveries beginning in 2009.

By Daniel Garrun.