APACHE Longbow Upgrades Article

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Tech Sergeant
Apr 6, 2005
By Karl Schwarz

The numbers speak for themselves: twice the range, reliability 150 percent higher, maintenance effort down by 60 percent, plus savings in operating costs of almost a billion dollars over a period of 20 years. Everyone is talking about Arrowhead, the AH-64's state-of-the-art target acquisition and designation sight/pilot night vision system. The process of installing it in the US Army's Apache and Apache Longbows commenced in June, and by 2011 704 of the attack helicopters should have been fitted with the system. "We have been needing these capabilities for some time," says Lieutenant Colonel Shane Openshaw from the US Army's Apache Program Office, "as they will enable us to detect and attack the enemy at distances that simply are not possible today." The system will finally allow the range potential of the Hellfire guided missile (approx. 8km) to be fully utilised.

Arrowhead's design has a similar architecture to the original Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (TADS/PNVS), but uses electronics modules based on the latest technology. This applies especially to the thermal imager (FLIR), which has three levels of zoom and is capable of tracking several targets at once. Moreover, the lower half of the rotatable nose turret contains a laser rangefinder, a laser spot tracker and a CCD TV camera. Instead of looking through an optics system, the gunner sitting in the front cockpit now views the sensor imagery on a liquid crystal display.
The upper half containing the night vision systems for the pilot accommodates a FLIR and a CCD TV camera with night vision intensifier. Special processing algorithms lend the sensor imagery a much greater sharpness of detail and thus facilitate the detection of obstacles at low altitude.

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I will agree with you that the Longbow is a much needed upgrade but it is only a short term solution. I work with Blackhawks not Apaches but our sister unit is one so I get to be up close and personal with them and the Longbow has a lot of electrical and systems problems. If the Air Conditioner fails the computers overheat and they go off line rendering it useless.

It is the badest attack helicopter out there today but it needs to be replaced by something better.

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