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US Marine Corps completes AH-1Z test flight with Link-16

June 9, 2021  By Naomi Szeben

Image courtesy of Bell Helicopters

The US Marine Corps (USMC) successfully demonstrated in flight testing a two-way connection between the AH-1Z Viper helicopter and a ground station.

They were using new Link-16 hardware and software manufactured by Bell Textron Inc., and Northrop Grumman Corporation. Link-16 is designed to ensure the H-1 platform maintains its technological edge and combat capability throughout its service life.

Link-16 enables the AH-1Z to quickly obtain and share information from its sensors with other weapons systems using its onboard digital architecture. This is accomplished through Northrop Grumman’s Link-16 package, which includes a new digital moving map, a new security architecture, and the Link-16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) datalinks.

In a collaboration between the USMC H-1 Light/Attack Helicopter program (PMA-276), Bell, and Northrop Grumman, the team leveraged commercial best practices of Agile Development methodologies. This strategy provided an under glass solution from concept requirements to vehicle design testing in 12 months.


Northrop Grumman’s Lead Technology Integration group architected and integrated a mission package for Link-16, including a modern digital mapping solution, for the H-1 platform while Bell’s H-1 program team provided all of the necessary vehicle analysis and modifications to incorporate the mission equipment throughout the existing integrated systems of the AH-1Z. Together, the teams are redefining what it means to rapidly field integrated solutions on existing fielded platforms to increase warfighter capabilities.

The USMC has flight tests planned for the AH-1Z throughout the summer, which will be followed by flight testing of Link-16 on the UH-1Y Venom. The service anticipates AH-1Z initial fleet integration with Link 16 in 2022.


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