Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971


New vision for the Eyes of the Apache

By Sakha Pramod

Nation Shield talks to Rita C. Flaherty, VP, Strategy & Business Development, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, about upgrades to the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) - the “eyes of the Apache”

Prior to her nearly two-decade long career at Lockheed Martin and United Technologies, Flaherty served in the US Army, specializing in military intelligence. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and Systems Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and a Master of Science degree in Manufacturing Engineering from Syracuse University.

At the moment, Lockheed Martin is working closely with the US Army to upgrade the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS), the “eyes of the Apache”, used for targeting and pilotage in day, night and/or adverse-weather missions. 

The Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) system is the advanced electro-optical fire control system used by AH-64D/E Apache helicopter pilots for targeting and pilotage in day, night and/or adverse-weather missions. 

Fielded in 2005, M-TADS/PNVS provides immediate performance improvement over the legacy system, increasing standoff ranges for US Forces while providing aircrews with greater resolution for pilotage, targeting and enhanced situational awareness. 

More than 1,350 systems have been delivered to US Army and international customers. Lockheed Martin is focused on upgrading the M-TADS/PNVS system through technological advancements with the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) and High Reliability Turret.

The proposed updates, which include the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) and High Reliability Turret, align with new and emerging requirements that will keep the Apache attack helicopter relevant and prepared to execute future complex missions by the US and its allies. 

Flaherty states that the US Army awarded Lockheed Martin a US$54.3 million contract in December 2015 to upgrade the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) on the AH-64E Apache helicopter, bringing color to the cockpit for the first time.

Under this contract, Lockheed Martin will produce 35 M-DSA kits and spares for the US Army and the Qatar Emiri Air Force. 

Production will take place at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in Orlando and Ocala, Florida, through March 2019. 

A total of US$54.3 million was obligated to Lockheed Martin through the Modernized Day Sensor Assembly (M-DSA) Phase 2 Lot 1 contract award with a total value not to exceed US$130.6 million.

With M-DSA Phase 2 upgrades, pilots can identify targets at further distances through an additional field of view and extended range picture-in-picture capability. They also now have the ability to view high-resolution, near infrared and color imagery on cockpit displays. Phase 2 upgrades also include a new laser pointer marker and a multi-mode laser with eye-safe lasing capability.

“These enhancements enable faster situational understanding for aircrews and more accurate coordination with ground troops,” said Flaherty.

“With the Apache expected to be in service through 2045, we’re continuing to invest in sensor upgrades, such as the M-DSA, to ensure aircrews have the capabilities they need to address emerging threats.”

Lockheed Martin is currently producing 860 Modernized Laser Rangefinder Designator (M-LRFD) kits under an M-DSA Phase 1 Lot 4 contract awarded in early 2015. 

M-LRFD is the primary targeting aid for the Apache, enabling pilots to designate targets and establish target range for accurate weapon engagement.

M-TADS/PNVS provides Apache helicopter pilots’ long-range, precision engagement and pilotage capabilities for mission success and flight safety during day and night and in adverse weather conditions. 

High Reliability Turret 

The High Reliability Turret replaces the legacy TADS turret assembly, which is the structure that interfaces with the Apache aircraft and houses the M-TADS/PNVS. 

Flaherty explains that it also contains the motors that drive the azimuth and elevation movement of the sensors. It improves target track performance and minimizes the effects of aircraft vibration on the system. 

The High Reliability Turret provides reliability and maintainability improvements, resulting in operation and support cost savings of more than US$500 million over the life of the Apache. It provides performance improvements that help the pilot track targets more effectively and mitigate the effects of aircraft vibration on the M-TADS/PNVS sensor system.

Performance Based Logistics

Furthermore, the US Army initiated a Performance Based Logistics (PBL) contract for M-TADS/PNVS in 2007, which continues to provide exceptional value today. 

PBL enhances system affordability and has a proven supply availability rate of over 95% through efficiencies in supply chain management, valued engineering services, depot-level maintenance and retrograde infrastructure. 

The PBL process includes forwarded spares management, complete system inventory management, depot level repairs, unit level technical assistance, procurement management, modifications/ field retrofits, proactive obsolescence management and an aggressive reliability improvement program. 

The program received the 2011 and 2013 U.S. Secretary of Defense PBL of the year awards, recognizing government/industry teams that demonstrate outstanding achievements in providing our warfighters with affordable and creative logistics solutions and exceptional operational capability.

Some of PBL’s features include exceptional supply availability and mission capability rates; reduction in annual sustainment cost and spares cost; increased reliability and maintainability and 24/7 technical assistance via the Lockheed Martin Integrated Technical Operations Center.


The LONGBOW Fire Control Radar (FCR) is built by a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. For more than a decade, the LONGBOW FCR has provided Apache aircrews with automatic target detection, location, classification and prioritization. It enables rapid, multi-target engagement in all weather, over multiple terrains and through battlefield obscurants. 

Target coordinates are automatically available to other sensors and weapons for target confirmation, rapid engagement and reduced fratricide. Target data is digitally available through the data modem for real-time transfer to other platforms and command posts. 

The self-contained Radar Frequency Interferometer provides rapid and accurate identification and azimuth to enemy air defense units. High system reliability and two-level maintenance maximize operational availability and reduce support costs. On the AH- 64E Apache, the LONGBOW FCR Radar Electronics Unit provides reduced size, weight, maintenance and power requirements for the radar system.


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