Lockheed Martin has finished developing its modernised day sensor assembly (M-DSA) carried in the Arrowhead system on Boeing AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
The announcement, made by Lockheed executives on 5 May, came on the same day the company said it received an $80.6 million contract for more Arrowhead work.
Speaking to reporters at the Army Aviation Association of America Mission Solutions Summit, Lockheed officials described M-DSA as a major upgrade from the 1980s-era sensor it is replacing. "It's a quantum leap in technology for our air crews," says Matthew Hoffman, Lockheed's director of Apache sensor programmes.
The summit runs from 4-6 May in Nashville, Tennessee.
"Moving from an analogue sensor to a digital sensor will give warfighters a level of situational awareness they have not had in the past," says Lt Col Steven Van Riper, the army's Apache sensors product manager, speaking to reporters via a conference call.
Van Riper says a test aircraft fitted with M-DSA will leave Redstone Arsenal in Alabama on 6 May, headed for the proving ground in Yuma, Arizona, to conduct tests – including live firings.
Lockheed and the army have completed about two-thirds of the planned M-DSA qualification test programme, Van Riper adds.
The company says it expects M-DSA will be fielded on Apaches by fiscal year 2017.
M-DSA features a high resolution camera that allows crews to track targets at longer distances, and identify targets such as automobiles based on their colour, Lockheed says.
The sensor's field of view can range from 0.64˚ to 9.32˚, compared to the previous sensor's range of 0.9˚ to 4.0˚.
M-DSA is part of the Apache's Arrowhead sensor system. The upper part of Arrowhead includes a turret with a pilot night vision sensor (PNVS), while the lower part contains a turret with day and night sensors known as the modernised target acquisition designation sight.
Lockheed equipped the first unit of Apaches with PNVS in 2005, and recently completed development of an upgrade to the targeting system's laser rangefinder and designator.
The new $80.6 million contract from the US Army calls for Lockheed to produce eight Arrowhead systems for the army and nine for the Indonesian army's future fleet of AH-64Es. The contract will extend production at the company's Orlando facility in Florida through to July 2016, Lockheed says.