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The United States Marine Corps (USMC) has successfully demonstrated two-way connection between the AH-1Z VIPER helicopter and a ground station using new Link-16 hardware and software. Link-16 is part of a defined road map of planned improvements 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 rapidly 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. “The ability to participate in the modern and connected battlefield makes the aircraft more lethal and better-equipped to support Marines on the ground,” commented Mike Deslatte, H-1 VP and Program Director for aircraft manufacturer Bell Textron.

Northrop Grumman’s Link-16 system will help US Marines today, and well into the future, with critical technology that facilitates coordination, collaboration, and interoperability. By enabling the display and integration of Link-16 data with the H-1 system, pilots of the AH-1Z have greater situational awareness and enhanced survivability,” explained James Conroy, VP Navigation, Targeting and Survivability at Northrop Grumman. “This milestone also highlights our focus on ‘speed to fleet,’ due to the unprecedented time between demonstrating the concept and getting to first flight. Flexibility and adaptability, using next-generation agile development practices, are the only ways to innovate and keep pace with changing mission needs.”

Collaboration between the USMC, Bell and Northrop Grumman, leveraging commercial best practices and agile development, resulted in an ‘under glass’ solution within 12 months, redefining what it means to rapidly field integrated solutions on existing platforms to enhance battlefield effectiveness.


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. (Photo: Bell Textron)

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