The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) has completed the first AH-1Z Viper flight with Link 16 to establish a two way connection between a ground station and the helicopter using the Link 16 hardware and software.
The AH-1Z is manufactured by Bell Textron and Northrop Grumman provided the Link 16 package, which brings with it a new digital moving map, a new security architecture and the Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) data links.
Link 16 and ANW2 enable the AH-1Z to rapidly share information with other weapon systems, provide greater situational awareness, accelerate the kill chain, and enhance survivability to outmaneuver and defeat the threat across a range of military operations.
Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 conducted a one-hour flight whereby pilots successfully communicated with a multiband networking manpack radio, the PRC-117G, and the Mobile Systems Integration Lab, a ground station designed by Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division to validate the suite’s connection with the aircraft.
The digital interoperability suite includes a new radio, processor, and mission computer software to integrate the information from this new data link onto a new digital map interface. This capability enables the AH-1Z to directly exchange critical data with other Marine Corps, Navy aviation, and shipboard systems.
Led by PMA-276, the effort was a collaboration of the PMA-276 Avionics Integrated Product Team and numerous government and industry partners.
USMC will continue flight tests on the AH-1Z through the summer, with initial fleet integration expected in 2022. In addition, the program is working with industry and HX-21 to flight test the same DI suite on the UH-1Y Venom later this spring.