Boeing has demonstrated for the first time the ability of an AH-64D Apache
Longbow helicopter to control an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) weapon payload.
Boeing demonstrated the capability in February at its Mesa, Arizona, facility,
home of both Apache helicopter production and the company's Unmanned Little Bird
(ULB) UAV technology demonstrator used in the milestone test.
The latest test is moving the Apache to the next level controlling a UAV's
sensors and employing its weapons. During the test, the Apache Longbow, the
AMUST-D aircraft, took control and commanded multiple payloads on the unmanned
aircraft, an A/MH-6 derivative in development by Boeing. The Apache was on the
ground during this engineering phase of remote weapons control while the ULB was
several miles away.
Testers used the Apache's newly developed UAV weapon page to perform the
standard Hellfire missile firing sequence on the ULB demonstrator through the
existing co-pilot station without hardware modifications. Both aircraft feature
L3 Communications' tactical common data link equipment and technologies.
The test supported an ongoing U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate
weaponization program through a contract with Boeing Phantom Works. The program
is taking advantage of the ULB's UAV capabilities to provide a proof-of-concept
test bed for laser-guided munitions deployment.
The ULB demonstrator last year demonstrated UAV technologies in communication
relay, precision re-supply, surveillance and weapons delivery. The ULB also
completed a weapons test at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, where the ground
station operator controlling the aircraft located and hit the target with a
Hellfire missile from several miles away.
The AMUST-D program recently completed the first phase of flight testing at Fort
Huachuca, Arizona, where the team demonstrated UAV level 4 (sensor and flight
path) control with a tactical common data link-equipped Hunter UAV. Additional
AMUST technology demonstrations will continue later this year via the Hunter
Killer Standoff Team Advanced Concept Technical Demonstration.
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