The UK MoD has taken delivery of the first two of 67 Apache AH mk1 helicopters equipped with new sighting and targeting systems from AgustaWestland.

AgustaWestland was awarded a £194m contract in May 2005 to undertake the integration and testing of the new system on the Apache AH mk1 and to retrofit the entire fleet of 67 aircraft.

The new sighting and targeting system, known as the modernised target acquisition designation sight / pilot night vision sensor or M-TADS/PNVS, will provide the Apache AH mk1 crews with greater situational awareness and combat effectiveness.

Additionally the new system will also deliver significant cost savings over the service life of the aircraft by increasing by a factor of three the overall system’s reliability, significantly reducing maintenance.

The newly designed FLIR sensors and avionics use the very latest image-processing techniques to give the aircrew the best possible resolution images to help avoid obstacles, such as wires and trees, during nap of the earth flight.

Attack helicopter IPT leader, Air Commodore Doug Whittaker said that the helicopters, which where delivered ahead of schedule, would be welcomed by the Apache crews.

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“In addition to substantial whole-life cost savings and improvements in reliability, M-TADS will provide substantial benefits to Apache aircrew,” Whittaker said.

The retrofit programme is set to commence on schedule on 27 November at Wattisham, the main operating base for Apache, and all aircraft will be upgraded by the end of 2010.

By Daniel Garrun.