In today’s defence market, companies are seldom able to “go it alone” on large-scale, international programmes and meet the end users’ requirements and expectations. One successful partnering effort had its genesis when Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control and Northrop Grumman Mission Systems formed two joint venture (JV) entities: LONGBOW Limited Liability Company (LBL - for domestic and Foreign Military Sales contracts); and LONGBOW International.
Jim Messina, LBL President and Shalini Gupta, Vice President, traced the start of LONGBOW-related activities to 1985, noting the JV is now “on track to deliver our 500th FCR [Fire Control Radar] unit this year. Over 14,000 AGM-11L HELLFIRE missiles have been delivered.”
The LONGBOW JV has expanded beyond a US focus and now provides international post-production support services through a flexible contract for AH-64 APACHE AN/APG-78 LONGBOW FCR customers, including 12 foreign militaries in 11 nations. The JV provides all programme support via employees of the two parent companies.
On the technology side of the programme ledger, the next FCR release (Version 6) will include significant performance enhancements. The JV leaders explained this will provide new operational modes and capabilities, including maritime, single-target track and 360° surveillance modes, as well as extended detection range against land, air and sea targets, and “[…] the V6 detection range has doubled to 16km […] along with improved detection of unmanned aerial vehicles.”
More details of the FCR updates include:
· Maritime Mode – detects surface targets as well as helicopter and fixed wing targets;
· Air Targeting Mode – adds detection of UAS, automatic scanning of multiple elevations and improved target detection in adverse weather conditions;
· Single-Target Track for Air, Ground and Maritime Targeting; and
· Extended Range – doubles Ground Targeting Mode, Air Targeting Mode and Maritime Mode.
The US Army has completed testing and is fielding the full AH-64E V6 capability. Commenting on full life-cycle requirements, the JV executives added “The US Army is also constantly evaluating potential advancements for the AH-64E, making it ready and relevant for Multi-Domain Operations to 2050.” Of significance, given the prominence of the APACHE, V6 will be available to international customers as well. The US Army has developed a common configuration AH-64E with full Version 6 capabilities for international customers. “Several international customers have ordered the V6 aircraft and a few have already received production deliveries,” Messina and Gupta told MON, noting also that the LONGBOW FCR gives the APACHE unmatched land, air and maritime mission capabilities over other Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters. “It provides rapid wide-area, long range reconnaissance/surveillance in clear, and more importantly, degraded visual battlefield conditions. In addition to situational awareness, LONGBOW provides a significant capability to detect and avoid detection and engagement from enemy air defence systems. The LONGBOW system also provides an invaluable Terrain Profile Mode to assist pilotage to detect and avoid terrain and other obstacles in degraded visual conditions.”