Posted by John McHale
ORLANDO, Fla., 10 Jan. 2011. The U.S. Army awarded Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] a $15 million contract for production of a low-light-level TV capability, called VNsight, for the Apache helicopter's Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS), also known as Arrowhead. The new VNsight visible/near infrared sensor is integrated into the modernized PNVS, providing the warfighter with tactical advantages, particularly in low-light-level conditions.
The VNsight Lot 1 production contract for 65 sensors and spares will equip two Apache battalions. It will also provide an initial quantity of cameras and spares to outfit a foreign military sales customer. The M-TADS/PNVS systems will be upgraded as a field retrofit. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control will produce the VNsight lens and serve as the system integrator, while Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Akron, Ohio, will provide the sensor's camera.
"The VNsight completes a commitment to the warfighter to deliver a blended image capability in the Apache to support both situational awareness for the pilot and improved air-to-ground coordination," says Lt. Col. John Vannoy, U.S. Army Apache Sensors product manager. "After thorough testing of this system with pilots experienced in both combat theaters, I'm confident that their appraisal of the system as a must-have capability will result in the Apache becoming even more lethal on the battlefield."
By blending VNsight imagery with the M-PNVS forward looking infrared (FLIR) imagery, pilots can see cultural and military lighting (lasers, markers, beacons, tracer rounds, etc.) accurately registered within the thermal image over the full 30-by-40 degree field of view of the sensor. This ensures safer flying conditions and enhanced mission capability by improving situational awareness in low-light-level conditions and situations where existing light sources cannot be imaged by the forward looking infrared (FLIR).
The capability to image light sources in-band with the VNsight sensor allows aviators to see some laser pointers, improving coordination with ground units. It also allows the aircrew to see their own laser spot while designating targets for laser-guided munitions engagements, providing an extra level of certainty that the correct target and aim-point are designated. Enhanced air-to-ground situational awareness reduces the potential for fratricide.