FORT EUSTIS, Va., 1 April 2012. U.S. Army helicopter aviation experts are moving ahead with a program to fit special infrared sensors aboard the Boeing AH-64D Apache attach helicopter that detect and pinpoint enemy ground fire from rifles, pistols, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and other infantry weapons and quickly train the Apache's weapons on sources of the hostile fire.
Officials of the Army Contracting Command's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) at Fort Eustis, Va., announced their intention last week to award a sole-source contract to the Boeing Co. Defense, Space & Security segment in Tempe, Ariz., to fit ground-fire-detection systems on the Apache attack helicopter as part of the Army's Ground Fire Acquisition System (GFAS).
The contract to Boeing, which should be awarded sometime in June, calls for Boeing to adapt the WeaponWatch surveillance and detection system from Radiance Technologies Inc. in Huntsville, Ala., for the Apache's GFAS avionics. The amount of the contract has yet to be negotiated.
GFAS uses networked infrared sensors to detect muzzle flashes from ground fire, routes the information through the attack helicopter's onboard processors, and displays the location and distance of the shooters as an icon on the pilot's display screen.
This enables the Apache crew to train their on-board Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensors (TADS/PNVS) onto the target, but it also transmits this targeting information to nearby troops on the ground.
Within seconds, Apache crews can train their helicopter's weapons on the hostile shooters. The AH-64D is armed with a 30-millimeter chain gun, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and Hydra 70 rocket pods.
For this contract, the Army will provide Boeing with the Radiance Technologies WeaponWatch as government-furnished property (GFP). WeaponWatch can detect and classify small arms, RPGs, mortars, shoulder-fired missiles, tanks and artillery.
WeaponWatch can display threat type and location, cue imaging systems and weapons, and support a common operating picture in real-time using existing tactical radios and other military communications systems, Radiance officials say.
Rather than integrating the WeaponWatch-based GFAS system aboard the Apache attack helicopter by changing the rotorcraft's flight software and adding displays, the GFAS system uses a special processor to add this capability.