Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control is continuing to expand the capabilities of the Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter with sensor upgrades, a new weapon option and greater networking capabilities. The latter is being achieved through the Longbow unmanned aerial system tactical common data link assembly (UTA), a product of Longbow LLC (a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman).
Longbow UTA is a two-way high-bandwidth Ku-band data link that is installed in a mast-mounted assembly in place of the Longbow fire-control radar. It is fully integrated into the mission computer, and can be used to control UAVs and to receive data from them.
The Longbow UTA first flew in January 2009, with trials being undertaken in tracking UAVs and receiving data from them. Just recently the team achieved a major milestone when a General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle was completely controlled from the Apache cockpit in a series of tests. Success in these trials will smooth the way for UTA to enter service with the Block III Apache next year.
Lockheed Martin is also implementing a series of capability improvements to the Apache’s mission equipment, including the VUIT data link that allows sharing of full-motion video from air and ground imagery sources. Improvements are also being made in the modernized target acquisition designation sight/pilot night-vision sensor (M-TADS/PNVS). A modernized day sensor assembly (M-DSA) replaces an older unit, offering enhanced performance and better reliability. The VNsight has been integrated into the M-PNVS to provide low visible light/near-infrared imagery to the forward-looking infrared imagery to enhance flight safety and provide tactical advantages.
In the weapons field, Lockheed Martin is nearing the completion of the development of DAGR, which adds laser guidance to existing Hydra 70 unguided rockets. It will shortly enter the system qualification phase, leading to readiness for delivery next year. The weapon has been fired 31 times so far, including 21 airborne launches from the AH-64D, AH-6 Little Bird and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. As well as new applications, DAGR is compatible with all platforms capable of launching the widely used Hellfire missile.