Apache InnovationAPACHE BLOCK III PROVIDES BLUEPRINT FOR AH-6i COCKPIT
By Lisa Dunbar & Carole Thompson
Mike Goettings Photo
Inspired by the architecture and system integration in the AH-64 Apache Block III helicopter, Boeing has designed a new cockpit for its AH-6i, a light attack reconnaissance helicopter the company is marketing to defense forces in several countries around the world.
“The AH-6i has been designed to provide the pilot with the most advanced and integrated cockpit ever installed in this sized helicopter,’” said Greg Dockter, AH-6 Systems Lead. It features dual 10.4-inch flat panel multi-functional displays, vertical engine display, caution warning upfront display and standby flight instrument system that are all night vision goggle compatible.”
The heart of the system is the Mission Computer, which uses software based on Apache Block III open system architecture and commercial off the shelf hardware. Flight symbology, page displays, weapons pages and digital maps are based on the cockpit displays of the Apache Block III helicopter.
“These displays can be used to present to either crew member the electro-optic/infrared sensor video, engine data, moving map display, armament and identification friend or foe transponder control,” he added.
The cockpit also features fully-integrated cyclic, collective and sight system controllers, which allow either pilot easy control of all of these features. The weapons suite consists of Hellfire Missiles, all varieties of 2.75-inch rockets, including laser guided rockets, 7.62mm mini-guns, Gau-19 50 caliber Gatling gun and the FN/Herstal HPM400LC 50 caliber gun pod.
Weapons can be mixed and matched in four weapons stations and are automatically configured and displayed. The electro-optic/infrared cameras provide the pilots with a sight system featuring day TV, low light TV, infrared camera, laser range finder, laser pointer and laser designator capability.
Additionally, the system provides control of two multi-band radios currently installed, and has growth capability to control up to seven communication radios.
Common avionics architecture between the Apache Block III aircraft and the AH-6i will provide tremendous operational and warfighting benefits for future potential reconnaissance and attack actions around the world.
At high noon on Sept.16, 2009, Boeing test pilot Todd Brown flew the AH-6i for its inaugural flight. The elapsed time between start of work and first flight was 7 months and the aircraft was completely operational with a fully integrated mission equipment package. Brown stated, “The only issue noted was the collective bungee spring needed some adjustment.”
“In my entire career, I’ve never seen an avionics suite/integrated cockpit come together so quickly,” said Al Winn, Boeing vice president of Apache programs. “It’s a great testament to the AH-6i and Apache team. This proves the open systems architecture of the Apache Block III is a success.”