Navy asks Northrop Grumman to provide network datalink for Marine Corps attack and utility helicopters

PATUXENT RIVER NAS, Maryland – Avionics experts at Northrop Grumman Corp. will provide US Marine Corps gunships with additional sensor networking capability in a $24.3 million order announced late last month.

U.S. Naval Air Systems Command officials at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland request from the Northrop Grumman Mission Systems segment in Woodland Hills, California, 25 Link 16 production B kits, three Link kit spares 16B and two Link 16B Flight Trainer Kits for the UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters.

Link 16 is a military tactical data link network used by the US military and its NATO allies that allows military aircraft, ships and ground forces to exchange their tactical picture in near real time. Link 16 also supports the exchange of text, images and digital voice messages.

The AH-1Z Viper is a twin-engine attack helicopter based on the AH-1W SuperCobra that features a four-bladed rotor system, improved transmission and a new sighting system. It has improved avionics, weapons, and electro-optical sensors designed to find long-range targets and attack them with precision weapons.

Related: Navy chooses L-3 Communications-West’s sensor datalink to help helicopters and warships share information

The UH-1Y Venom helicopter – also known as the Super Huey – is a mid-size twin-engine utility helicopter designed to replace the U.S. Marine Corps UH-1N Twin Huey light utility helicopters first introduced in the early 1970s .

Link 16 is based on time division multiple access (TDMA) communication technology. It is a secure, jam-resistant, high-speed digital data link that operates at RF and microwave frequencies from 960 to 1215 MHz.

This frequency range limits the exchange of information directly to line-of-sight distances, although satellite communications (SATCOM) and ad hoc protocols can transmit Link 16 data over long distance protocols such as TCP/IP using MIL-STD 3011 (JREAP) or STANAG 5602 (SINGLES). Information typically passes at rates of 31.6, 57.6, or 115.2 kilobits per second.

The AH-1Z and UH-1Y are part of the Marine Corps H-1 Upgrade Program to build new helicopters, as well as rebuild older AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters and UH-1N Twin utility helicopters Huey with cutting edge designs. The program aims to upgrade AH-1Ws to AH-1Zs and UH-1Ns to UH-1Ys.

Related: Navy works with Northrop Grumman to add Link 16 tactical networking capability to MQ-8C unmanned helicopter

The AH-1Z can carry a payload of 5,764 pounds, can fly up to 222 knots, has a range of 370 nautical miles, and can fly up to 20,000 feet. It has a crew of two and carries a 20mm Gatling gun and can fire 70mm Hydra rockets, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles.

The UH-1Y can carry a payload of 6,660 pounds, including up to 10 crash-resistant passenger seats and six litters or equivalent cargo. It has a range of 260 nautical miles and can fly up to 20,000 feet. It can fly with one or two pilots, has two external stations for Hydra 70 or APKWS II 70 millimeter rockets and two hitch mounts for M240D machine guns or Gatling guns.

On this order, Northrop Grumman will perform the work in Woodland Hills and San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be complete by June 2024. For more information, contact Northrop Grumman Mission Systems online at www.northropgrumman.comor Naval Air Systems Command at