Development of the AH-1W cockpit upgrade will get under way in 1999. It will be modelled on the cancelled IWS programme, which aimed to reduce crew workload by providing better-integrated controls and displays. The result will be "mirror-image" cockpits, allowing the helicopter to be flown or the weapon system operated by either crewmember with equal ease.

Features include liquid-crystal displays and side-stick controllers. Compared with the IWS, a navigation FLIR has been added and the requirement to use the Navy's standard moving-map display introduced. Helmet-mounted displays may be included in the cockpit upgrade, but only if they are developed for another programme, such as the US Army's Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche, Fahrenkrog says.

"The challenge now is to increase avionics commonality with the UH-1N and other Marine Corps and Navy aircraft," he says. With a goal of 80%, commonality with the upgraded UH-1Ns operated by the same HMLAs is the priority, followed by commonality with the Marine Corps' Bell Boeing V-22s, McDonnell Douglas AV-8Bs and F-18s and, finally, with US Navy aircraft.

Current plans call for the first 4BN UH-1N upgrades to be purchased in fiscal year 2002, with redelivery of upgraded aircraft to begin in 2004. The first 4BW AH-1W upgrades are to be purchased in FY2003, with redelivery of upgraded aircraft to begin in 2005. The upgrading of 100 "Novembers" and 180 "Whiskeys" is to be completed in 2010-2012.

Bell is already looking at the export prospects for the 4BW upgrade, and Fahrenkrog believes that the 4BN upgrade could eventually be applied to some of the UH-1Hs operated by foreign customers.

Source: Flight International