The installation of Lockheed Martin's modernised day sensor assembly (M-DSA) system onto the US Army's AH-64E Block III Apache attack helicopter is nearing completion, US Army Apache sensors project manager lieutenant colonel Steve Van Riper has revealed.
Riper was quoted by FlightGlobal as saying that the army is currently in the final stages of integration and development with the M-DSA system.
The installation of the first M-DSA sensor on board an Apache test helicopter is anticipated to take place in November 2013, Riper said.
Testing and operational evaluations of the test aircraft are planned for January 2014, whereas the sensor is expected to become operational in 2018.
Installed as part of a three-phase upgrade to the Apache's Lockheed-built modernised target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) suite, the M-DSA is designed to add high-definition colour video capability to the helicopter's sensor suite.
Capable of designating a laser aim point for the Hellfire II missiles, M-DSA system will primarily serve as the chief targeting aid for the Apache helicopter, by establishing the target range for accurate weapon aiming.
The system will specifically mitigate obsolescence issues of M-TADS/PNVS system, while enhancing its reliability, maintainability and performance.
The first and second phase upgrades involved integration of an improved laser range finder designator (LRFD) and M-DSA respectively, whereas the final phase will feature an addition of a training laser.
US Army Apache project manager colonel Jeff Hager said there are no immediate planned upgrades for the forward-looking infrared (FLIR) component of the M-TADS/PNVS system.
"At this time, the user determined to maintain the infrared as a system as it is today," Hager said.
Also known as Arrowhead, M-TADS/PNVS is an advanced electro-optical fire control system designed to provide pilots with long-range, electro-optical precision engagement and flying targeting capabilities for conducting day, night and adverse-weather missions.
Image: AH-64E Apache helicopter during its flight. Photo: courtesy of the US Army.