Vision system manufacturer Intevac Photonics of Santa Clara, Calif., planned to begin deliveries of new night-vision cameras for U.S. Army AH-64D/E helicopters this month, after receiving its largest-ever contract award from the service earlier this year.
The M611 camera, which contains the company’s ISIE (intevac silicon imaging engine) 11 sensor for low light level detection, replaces the existing camera in the Apache’s nose-mounted pilot night vision sensor (PNVS). The ISIE 11 sensor is also being integrated in the F-35 helmet-mounted display system (HMDS).
Under a $27 million contract the Army’s Contracting Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., awarded to the company in June, Intevac will deliver 500 M611 cameras–one per helicopter–over three lots through 2015. The Army is providing the cameras as government-furnished equipment to Lockheed Martin, which will integrate them in the Apache’s upper PNVS nose turret, which is used for pilotage. Separately, Lockheed Martin is upgrading the daylight camera in the lower turret, called the modernized target acquisition designation sight (M-TADS), with a high-definition, color-capable camera with improved field of view.
Drew Brugal, Intevac Photonics general manager, said Apache pilots will be able to use the M611 camera in two modes: with a thermal imaging sensor to provide a blended image, and by itself for image intensification. The Apache’s integrated helmet and display sight system (IHADSS) can feed the imagery to a monocle positioned in front of the pilot’s right eye, potentially providing an alternative to night-vision goggles.
Brugal said the ISIE 11 sensor, based on Intevac’s patented electron bombarded activated pixel sensor (EBAPS) technology, has demonstrated “equal to or better than” the third-generation night-vision acuity the F-35 program requires for the Joint Strike Fighter HMDS. He said Intevac started delivering ISIE 11 modules to Elbit Systems of America several months ago for integration in the camera used in the F-35 helmet display system, replacing the current ISIE 10 sensor.
In October, the F-35 Joint Program Office announced that it had halted the development of an alternate HMDS by BAE Systems, a program that was started because of night vision, display jitter and image latency problems with the existing helmet system from Vision Systems International (VSI).
Brugal formerly headed VSI, the Elbit-Rockwell Collins joint venture that was dissolved in 2012 after his departure and replaced by a new organization, Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems.