The US Navy has awarded a $65m contract to Northrop Grumman to commence full-rate production (FRP) of Link-16 for the US Marine Corps H-1 fleet.

Under this contract, the company will be responsible for the integration of data link hardware for the fleet, comprising UH-1Y and AH-1Z aircraft.

Northrop Grumman navigation, targeting and survivability vice-president Lindsay McEwen said: “As lead technology integrator for H-1 Avionics, we are expanding our long-standing partnership with the Marine Corps to modernise electronic systems across the fleet through an open systems architecture approach.

“Link-16 full-rate production is the starting point.”

Link-16 is a military tactical data link network that will allow the crews of AH-1Z and UH-1Y aircraft to share tactical communication and data securely with other platforms in near real-time.

The link will support the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) concept of Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

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A twin-engine attack helicopter, AH-1Z Viper has a four-blade, composite main rotor system, with anti-armour, anti-air, and fire support coordination capabilities.

The UH-1Y Venom is a multi-role utility helicopter that features different weapons and mission support configurations to perform operations including causality evacuation, combat assault support, and air support missions.

So far, the company’s mission systems solution developed for the H-1 fleet have completed more than 450,000 total flight hours.

According to Northrop Grumman, the fleet’s flexible architecture, technologies and capabilities can also be used for future development programmes such as Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) vertical take-off and landing family of systems (VTOL FoS) and more.

Last week, the USMC’s AGM-179A Joint Air-to-Ground Missile achieved initial operating capability (IOC) on the AH-1Z Viper helicopter.