The United States is outfitting hundreds of armed Apache helicopters with new technology more advanced than what’s available on other rotorcraft, and the Pentagon says the upgrades will allow chopper gunners to strike targets with unmatched accuracy.
Up until now, the Pentagon’s fleet of Apache helicopters was equipped with a system that only allowed crewmembers to see activity on the ground in blurry black-and-white video. On Wednesday this week, though, the US Army unveiled new technology being installed on its AH-64 Apaches that allow those in the cockpit to peer back at the earth from miles off the ground and watch what’s happening in high-definition color.
“This additional situational awareness . . . will give soldiers what they need to make the right decisions on the battlefield,” Army Lieutenant Colonel Steven Van Riper — the product manager for the Apache sensors – said at Wednesday’s event, according to Reuters.
Those new capabilities are being made possible specifically due to upgrade on the Apache’s Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor, or M-TADS/PNVS — the aircraft’s precision targeting and pilotage system.
“We are looking forward to the reliability and maintainability improvements that this laser will bring to the M-TADS system,” Van Riper said in a statement this week. “This system will help to further reduce the burden on our aircrews, as they will be able to reap the benefits of the performance improvements.”
“The fully modernized M-TADS/PNVS will significantly enhance situational awareness for the Apache crews, and be a decisive factor in the successful execution of their missions,” Matt Hoffman, the director of the Apache weapons-system work at developer Lockheed-Martin, said in a prepared statement about the upgrades. In a press release issued this week by the contractor, the upgrades were explained as being able to let Apache pilots see high-resolution, high-definition and color imagery on cockpit displays, while an additional field of view allows them to see civilian and military lighting on a single display more clearly.
Lockheed says they received a $92 million Performance Based Logistics grant from the Army late last year for the sustainment of the M-TADS/PNVS system, and Fox News has reported that the Army wants to retrofit all 680 of their Apache E-models with the new technology as soon as possible.
Some, however — including Reuters — were quick to suggest that Apache upgrades would have been perhaps more appropriate if they were implemented before the US military used those aircraft in deadly, overseas operations, including one in particular that helped raise awareness of America’s role in the Iraq War.
“An Army official said new sensors developed by Lockheed Martin Corp over the past four years,” Reuters’ Andrea Shalal-Esa wrote on Wednesday, “could help avoid mistakes such as the 2007 attack by two US Apache helicopters that killed 12 people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff, after they were mistaken for armed insurgents.”