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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rotorcraft Report: New Longbow Data Link Passes Key Test


On January 28, 2009, an AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter equipped with a Longbow Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) successfully acquired and tracked an Unmanned Little Bird aircraft in flight. Using the Longbow UTA’s two-way, high-bandwidth data link, the Apache crew were able to connect into the Little Bird’s onboard HD video camera and watch its video on the Apache’s multi-function display in real-time.

"This test proves that the system works," said Greg Walker, business development manager for the Longbow UTA system. "If anything, this recent inflight demo is a testimony to the team that built the Longbow UTA, and how well the program is functioning on target."

The Longbow UTA is designed to do more than passively receive video from unmanned flight systems (UAS). In its full deployment, the Longbow UTA will allow Apache pilots to remotely control sensors and flight systems onboard UASs operating at long range. Under the current model, one Apache will be able to control one UAS at a time.

The Longbow UTA is built upon Apache Video from UAS for InteroperabilityTeaming - Level 2 (VUIT-2) technology. Developed by Lockheed Martin, Apache VUIT-2 is a federated system that offers passive viewing of UAS video. It is currently deployed with U.S. forces in theater. The Longbow UTA is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. According to Walker, further test flights are planned.

The Longbow UTA will be integrated onto the Apache Block III aircraft beginning in 2012. Walker said a third of the Apache fleet will eventually be equipped with Longbow UTA equipment, allowing them to extend their visual range and operational impact while aloft. Based on his estimates, one-third works out to about 270 Apaches with this additional capability.

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