Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $65 million contract to proceed with the full-scale production of Link-16 for the US Marine Corps’ H-1 fleet.
Link-16 is a secure military data link allowing AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircrews to share tactical data and communications with other platforms in near real-time.
According to the company, the link serves as a “critical mission enabler” as the US Department of Defense moves to Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
As part of the contract, Northrop will integrate the data link hardware into the AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircraft to support the exchange of text, imagery, and digital voice messages.
Based on time-division multiple access communications technology, the link operates at radio and microwave frequencies of up to 1,215 megahertz and provides excellent jamming resistance.
“As lead technology integrator for H-1 Avionics, we are expanding our long-standing partnership with the Marine Corps to modernize electronic systems across the fleet through an open systems architecture approach,” Northrop vice president Lindsay McEwen explained, adding that the full-rate production of the Link-16 serves as the “starting point.”
The H-1 Fleet
The US Marines’ H-1 fleet heavily features the twin-engine AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter.
Developed by Bell Textron, the AH-1Z has a four-blade rotor system with anti-armor, anti-air, and fire support coordination capabilities.
It has a maximum speed of 388 kilometers (241 miles) per hour and an endurance of up to three hours and 30 minutes.
The fleet also includes UH-1Y Venom multi-role utility helicopters with various weapons and mission support configurations for casualty evacuation, combat assault support, and air support missions.
According to US Naval Air Systems Command, the AH-1Z and the UH-1Y both surpassed 400,000 flight hours in April 2021.