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


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.

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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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