The USMC is upgrading its fleet of AH-1W attack helicopters.
The USMC is upgrading its fleet of AH-1W attack helicopters.

Israeli-based defense contractor Elbit Systems has revealed that the US Marine Corps (USMC) is currently working on upgrading its fleet of 136 AH-1W Cobra helicopters with new features designed to bolster targeting and communications.

As a result of budget concerns, the Pentagon is looking at older fleets such as the Cobra and asking, “is there anything more we can do to keep the aircraft relevant and make the cockpit more efficient?” Bob Waage, VP of business development for Elbit’s rotorwing and tilt rotor division, told IHS Jane’s in an interview.

According to IHS Jane’s, Elbit is already several years into a process of installing a night targeting system onto the Cobra fleet. This system involves an optical sensor on the aircraft’s nose which has a “daytime camera, forward-looking infrared, and a laser designator.”

More recently, Elbit won a $11.6 million contract to provide Helmet Display Tracker System (HDTS) kits on the Cobra fleet. “The HDTS improves flight safety by providing greater situational awareness,” Elbit Program Manager Steve Hanzelka told IHS Jane’s. The HDTS comes with night vision, weapons sighting and weapons control advantages.

A third contract worth $2.5 million calls for the installation of Tactical Video Data Link (TVDL) technology on helicopters. As IHS Jane’s reports, the TVDL “provides aircrew information needed to detect and identify threats. TVDL can acquire information from the night targeting system and transmit it to ground forces or to another Cobra for a target handoff. Information can, in turn, be received via onboard sensors or from external sources. The data can be communicated back and forth so that all forces have the same battlefield picture when making tactical decisions.”

The three upgrades are expected to be completed by the end of 2015.

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