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Apache Helicopters Get New “Eyes”

The Army is incorporating a new sensor capability into its Apache helicopters. The Apache Sensors Product Office has accepted delivery of the new Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) Laser Rangefinder Designator (LRFD), the first component to be fielded in the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly. The laser represents increased capability to the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor, known as the "eyes of the Apache."

The modernized LRFD is the first phase of upgrades for the M-DSA program. The modernized LRFD mitigates obsolescence and provides enhanced performance to the MTADS/PNVS system. The legacy laser, built with 1970s/1980s technology, was developed with a tactical wavelength in the system, and involves a high maintenance cost for the Army. The new laser incorporates a second EyeSafe wavelength, the newest technology available. It replaces the old flash lamp technology to a more reliable, more robust diode pump laser technology.

The diode pump is the primary driver of increasing the Army's reliability and maintainability numbers, thereby reducing the burden on flight line maintainers. The Army expects to have a smaller footprint, thereby reducing operations and sustainment costs by as much as 50 percent throughout the life cycle of the entire kit. This means that the Army will need to buy fewer spare parts, due to the new system's reliability.

Phase one will be fielded later this year and will be fully capable by 2016, according to Matt Hoffman, director of MTADS/PNVS programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. "The MDSA is the chief targeting aide for the Apache and establishes range-to-target for accurate weapons engagement," Hoffman said.

Completion of the second phase, scheduled to begin in 2016, will include all the remaining elements in the DSA such as a high definition color television, laser pointer marker, upgraded laser spot tracker, and a state-of-the-art inertia measuring unit for stability and extended range in the system. The M-DSA will have the same fit and form as the legacy laser to ensure that the Army has a retrofittable laser into all its legacy systems. The Army's goal is to retrofit the M-DSA and equip the AH-64E Apache units first.

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