British Army receives first upgraded Apaches

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The British Army has declared a major targeting system upgrade to its Westland/Boeing Apache AH1 attack helicopters as ready for service, and could soon field the modified aircraft in Afghanistan.

AgustaWestland handed over the army's first two Apaches to be modified with Lockheed Martin's Arrowhead modernised target acquisition designation sight/pilot night vision sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) at its Yeovil manufacturing site in Somerset on 24 November (one pictured below).

 
© AgustaWestland

Introducing a new forward-looking infrared sensor offering extended-range performance and improved resolution, plus a cockpit electronic display and control unit, the M-TADS upgrade will significantly improve the situational awareness of the aircraft's pilots, says AgustaWestland.

"Apache crews and troops on the ground on overseas operations will welcome the capability improvements," says Nick Whitney, AgustaWestland's senior vice-president, UK government business.

The army's attack helicopter force has been deployed on combat operations in Afghanistan (below) since April 2006, and Apache force commander Col David Turner says: "We aim to deploy M-TADS on operations at the first available opportunity."

 
© AgustaWestland

Placed with AgustaWestland in May 2005, the £194 million ($290 million) M-TADS upgrade contract will also deliver through-life cost savings due to its improved reliability over current equipment, the company says.

Work on additional aircraft started at the British Army's Wattisham base in Suffolk on 27 November, and the service's entire inventory of 67 Apaches will receive the modifications by late 2010.

For more Apache news and images, see Flight's aircraft profile