Single Malt, Blue Jeans and Apache Sensors
What do single malt and blue jeans have in common with the Apache helicopter’s Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (TADS/PNVS) system? They get better with time.
While the first two may reach their ideal state from prolonged use or the lack thereof, TADS/PNVS’s improvements over the years are thanks to research, development and advancements in technology and engineering – all while racking up over a million hours on the front lines (now that is prolonged use!).
Now referred to as the Modernized TADS/PNVS (M-TADS/PNVS), the system has literally and figuratively covered millions of miles from its introduction to the U.S. Army, to providing high-resolution, high-definition color imagery to the cockpit with the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA).
In 1984, the U.S. Army inducted the Apache helicopter into its arsenal, and along with it, our TADS/PNVS. With the TADS, pilots were able to engage threats with a level of precision that hadn’t yet been available in theater. The PNVS augmented the aircrews’ pilotage capability, enabling them to see and operate over changing terrain at night. These Apaches owned the night, taking away the enemies’ ability to deploy under the cover of darkness. For decades the TADS/PNVS functioned as a reliable necessity to the U.S. Army during the Gulf War and other forward operations.
Along with the War on Terror came the need for M-TADS/PNVS. Fielded in 2005, the system featured sensor and software improvements, which translated to increased standoff ranges, greater resolution for targeting and pilotage, and enhanced situational awareness in both day and night.
But we didn’t stop there.
M-DSA continues the modernization of the M-TADS/PNVS. Like that favorite pair of blue jeans, M-TADS/PNVS with M-DSA is the best, most functional fit yet for the Apache helicopter.
The upgrade enables pilots to see either color or near infrared high resolution imagery on cockpit displays. With this capability, warfighters on the ground and in the air can quickly and accurately coordinate their mission by sharing additional details such as color to support the identification and engagement of threats. Pilots can also use new fields of view that allow image blending with the M-TADS forward-looking infrared to see cultural and military lighting more clearly.
M-DSA includes our proprietary XR extended range algorithm, which provides greater resolution and therefore, greater standoff ranges, increasing aircrew survivability. The greater range capability also enables the M-TADS/PNVS system to fully accommodate weapons fielded today and planned for the future.
And we didn’t forget about the lasers. M-DSA brings a new laser pointer marker to the M-TADS/PNVS, further improving communication and coordination with ground troops. It also includes an updated multi-mode laser with eye-safe lasing capability to support missions in urban environments and critical training exercises.
The U.S. Army is incorporating M-DSA, with a contract for the upgrades to color awarded at the end of 2015.
How can we make M-TADS/PNVS an even better fit for the Apache helicopter? That’s a question we’re always asking the warfighter. Right now, we’re working on the High Reliability Turret to replace the legacy TADS turret – the structure that currently houses the M-TADS/PNVS and connects it to the aircraft electronics. This new assembly provides reliability and maintainability improvements, resulting in operation and support cost savings of more than $500 million over the life of the U.S. Apache fleet. It also provides performance improvements that help the pilot track targets more effectively and mitigate the effects of aircraft vibration in the M-TADS/PNVS system.
What is on the horizon past M-DSA and the High Reliability Turret? We’ll have to use our extended range resolution to see.
Through the years technology will continue to change, but our goal will remain the same – to continually provide the warfighter with the greatest functionality, performance and value possible. A system that is always getting better with time… and a lot of innovative engineering.