News | May 19, 2022

Marines Complete First H-1 Mixed Fleet Link 16 Flight

By Joy Shrum

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21 successfully demonstrated the first two-way connection between an AH-1Z Viper, a UH-1Y Venom and a portable ground station using the new Link 16 software at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, in November 2021.

The new digital interoperability (DI) suite includes Link 16 (L16) and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) data links and allows information to be shared across various networks.

“The H-1 has a proven track record on the battlefield and the Marine Corps is always looking to improve capability to ensure the aircraft is fully equipped with the latest technology to support Marines on the ground,” said Col. Vasilios Pappas, H-1 Light/Attack Helicopter Programs Office program manager. “The integration of L16 and ANW2 provides a much-needed capability to the fleet and will ensure H-1s have better situational awareness and enhanced survivability for decades to come.”

In November 2021, a mixed-section flight was conducted to represent an operational scenario involving close air support and casualty evacuation missions. This event consisted of inserting ground troops in an objective area and communicating over the ANW2 network.

“The ground troops were able to receive information from the aircraft on their tablets,” said Marine Corps Maj. Jason Grimes, the first flight pilot and H-1 project officer with HX-21. “This event validated the ability to insert troops in an objective area, immediately connect to their radio and provide constant communication.”

The ANW2 network provided fast and secure communication to all parties connected to this encrypted network. The mission-based test evaluation was able to prove the effectiveness of this mode of communication and demonstrated the added capability it gives the warfighter.

The DI test team will conduct its final software update evaluation in the spring prior to the operational test squadron’s evaluation of the entire DI suite. The Marine Corps will continue testing the DI suite throughout the summer and anticipates L16 fleet integration in early 2023.

The DI suite 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.

Joy Shrum is a communication specialist with the U.S. Marine Corps H-1 Light/Attack Helicopters program office.