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1000th Apache M-TADS/PNVS Delivery Spotlights Sustainment/Modernization Balance

In ceremonies held Feb. 16, 2011, Lockheed Martin and Army representatives marked the delivery of the 1,000th Lockheed Martin Apache Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system to the U.S. Army.

Industry descriptions identify M-TADS/PNVS, also known as Arrowhead®, as “the advanced electro-optical fire control system that Apache helicopter pilots use for safe flight in day, night or adverse weather missions. M-TADS/PNVS’ advanced technology improves system performance by more than 150 percent…”

M-TADS/PNVS modular architecture accommodates a field-retrofit from the predecessor TADS/PNVS to the new configuration on current AH-64D “Block II” and next generation “Block III” Apache attack helicopters.

In ceremonies held Feb. 16, 2011, Lockheed Martin and Army representatives marked the delivery of the 1,000th Lockheed Martin Apache Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system to the U.S. Army. Industry descriptions identify M-TADS/PNVS, also known as Arrowhead®, as “the advanced electro-optical fire control system that Apache helicopter pilots use for safe flight in day, night or adverse weather missions. Lockheed Martin photo

In a teleconference with senior U.S. Army leadership and Lockheed Martin program officials, David Belvin, Lockheed Martin Director of Apache Programs pointed to M-TADS/PNVS as a “world premier rotorcraft targeting and piloting system, which has been in service with the U.S. Army since 2005 on the AH-64 Apache helicopter.”

“M-TADS/PNVS employs state-of-the-art forward looking infrared sensors to provide Apache pilots with enhanced image resolution, giving aircrews the benefit of significant standoff range and unrivaled targeting capabilities,” he said. “Arrowhead has proven itself in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during nearly 462,000 flying hours. It has installed trust in our soldiers who fly and fight it and in the aircrews who have been able to maintain a 99.2 percent full mission capable rate with the system.”

He noted that additional system upgrades in early development include a low level light camera upgrade for the PNVS with imagery blended with that of M-TADS to “greatly increase the pilot’s situational awareness, enabling greater mission success and crew safety…”

Col. Shane Openshaw, U.S. Army Project Manager, Apache Attack Helicopter, reflected on his personal involvement with the M-TADS/PNVS program, beginning with acceptance of the first unit in May 2005, acceptance of the 500th unit in October 2008, and the 1000th unit milestone.

“In that time span a lot has happened,” he said. “When we put the first unit on the first aircraft and deployed that company and that battalion to Iraq the system was immediately recognized as a ‘game changer’ in terms of the additional capabilities that it gave the Apache crews in support of the soldiers on the ground. And it became immediately apparent that accelerating that capability to the field was of paramount importance to the Army. The Army committed…came to the table and accelerated the program. And the team here stepped up and met their end of the bargain too. And they have been pushing that capability out very effectively and very quickly since we began delivering unit number one.”

“Our retrofit effort on the Longbow fleet will be complete this summer,” he added. “What I mean by that is taking kits out to the field and applying them to [Apaches] that are already in the field will be done. We will still be producing them and every Longbow Apache that comes off the remanufacturing line of the new build aircraft will be also equipped with M-TADS/PNVS. And we will be completely ‘M-TADS pure’ within the next couple of years. That’s an incredible statement about the team’s commitment in stepping up and getting things done.”

Openshaw emphasized that an important aspect to the program is that it “balances sustainment effort with a modernization effort. What I mean by that is that Dave [Belvin] talked about the readiness rate and the reliability and the O&S [operations and support] cost reductions that have resulted from this program. And that really falls into the realm of sustaining these aircraft and keeping them ready. But coupled tightly with that is the additional capability that comes with the sustainment program – and that’s modernization. Everything that we are doing on this aircraft to date is a balance between those two key efforts of sustainment and modernization.”

Noting that the M-TADS/PNVS had upgraded “the night side” of the system, the Army PM emphasized the fact that the Army is “still living with ‘70s technology in the ‘day side’ of the nose that essentially makes it very difficult to sustain the aircraft. And we are looking at an inability to support this for [many] more years. So, as we look to tackle those problems from a sustainment perspective – we are designing out obsolescence and designing in reliability and maintainability – we are also looking to take advantage of new capabilities that are on the market…to really bring what I would characterize as ‘the next game changing capability’ that will be incorporated into the Apache fleet.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...