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Apache Helos Getting New Night Vision, Possibly New Rockets

Oct. 23, 2013 - 05:46PM   |  
By PAUL McLEARY   |   Comments
(US Army)
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US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed Oct. 15 that it had successfully tested the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) earlier this year on fixed-wing aircraft and that it had wrapped up the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration on the system.

The tests included both ground launches and aerial launches from the A-10 Thunderbolt, AV-8B Harrier and F-16.

“The success of these tests means that an aircraft pilot will be able to carry seven guided rockets in one launcher that weigh less than a single 500-pound bomb, allowing for more shots in a single sortie,” Bill Hammersley, the JCTD technical manager, said in a statement.

The BAE Systems-made APKWS reached another milestone on Sept. 4 and 5, when the rocket was fired from an Apache helicopter for the first time at Yuma, Ariz., nailing a perfect eight for eight score in hitting within one meter of the target from a distance of 1,500 meters to five kilometers at airspeeds of up to 150 knots, according to the company.

The Marines have been using the APKWS in combat in Afghanistan and have fired more than 110 of the missiles at targets.

While the US Army has yet to purchase any of the rockets, BAE officials say they’re hopeful that some of the NATO and allied nations who fly the Boeing-made Apache — including the UK, Israel and Saudi Arabia — will also be interested in the system.

New precision rockets aren’t the only new piece of kit that have been developed for the Apache. But where the service is still kicking the tires on the APKWS, in June the Army inked a $27 million deal to buy up to 500 night vision devices for crews of the helicopter.

The sets would replace the bulky night vision goggles currently used by Apache crews with a digital monocle device made by Intevac Photonics.

Instead of the goggles, the pilots would use a monocle to see at night and in degraded visual environments. The system will also be networked, allowing pilots and crew to access streaming video, pictures, and other intelligence, said Drew Brugal, executive vice president of Intevac Photonics.

The company and the US government have together invested about $100 million in developing the program over the past decade, Brugal said.

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