Bell Helicopter Textron has selected Lockheed Martin to develop and produce an advanced target sight system (TSS) for the US Marine Corps upgraded AH-1Z attack helicopter.

Lockheed Martin's Electronics & Missiles unit says work on the 54-month, $8 million engineering development and integration contract will begin this month. Lockheed Martin can expect to earn $150 million with the award of production contracts.

The TSS will incorporate imaging technology provided by Canada's WESCAM as well as Lockheed Martin's Sniper third-generation forward-looking infrared (FLIR).

The Sniper FLIR system was unsuccessfully offered for the next-generation navigation/attack pod for the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet family, but the third-generation FLIR will be incorporated in the product-improved NITE Hawk targeting system used on the Hornet aircraft.

The Lockheed Martin subsidiary developed and builds the TADS/PNVS night navigation and targeting system used on the Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. It is also developing the electro-optical sensor system for the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter.

Bell Helicopter will upgrade 180 AH-1W helicopter gunships and 100 UH-1N utility helicopters with four-bladed rotor systems, new transmissions and upgraded cockpits as part of the Marine Corps 4BN/4BW programme.

The UH-1Ns will also be fitted with General Electric T700 turboshafts. Bell has awarded Litton Industries the contract to provide a common cockpit to equip the two military rotorcraft.

The re-engined SuperCobra will be re-designated the AH-1Z, and the improved UH-1N will be the UH-1Y. Plans call for Bell to modify three AH-1Ws and two UH-1Ns for flight testing and evaluation. Deliveries of the aircraft will begin in 2004 and are scheduled to end by 2013.

Source: Flight International