May 022011

Firing a rifle at a Longbow Apache Attack helicopter in the hope of claiming a US$8 million scalp with a 50 cent bullet might not be a very good idea for too much longer – unless you like keeping company with a Hellfire missile.

The rapid evolution of military weaponry is a fascinating, if not frightening development to watch, particularly now that the battlefield is becoming increasingly networked.

One such advance due for deployment on the U.S. Army’s Longbow Apache Attack helicopters within the next twelve months is a networked Ground Fire Acquisition System (GFAS). The AH-64 has long had passive infrared countermeasures, but the GFAS is an offensive targeting system. It uses infrared cameras to detect muzzle flashes from ground fire, routes the information through the Apache’s Aircraft Gateway Processor and displays the location and distance of the shooters as an icon on the pilot’s display screen.

Not only does this enable the aircrew to immediately move their Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensors onto the target at the touch of a button for immediate prosecution, it also offers the same information to ground forces via the net-centric battlefield information system, giving everyone in the fight vastly improved situational awareness.

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