A Lockheed Martin communications system will be replaced on the Boeing AH-64E Apache fleet as the US Army moves to standardise data links for manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T).
Having Apache pilots communicating and controlling unmanned air systems (UAS) in flight is a central element of the army’s strategy for replacing the armed scout role now performed by the Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior.
But the transition to the MUM-T future has been complicated by a fleet of UAS fielded with incompatible data links.
That’s why the AH-64E can only communicate with the Ku-band data link on the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1C Gray Eagle, using Lockheed’s above-the rotor unmanned air systems tactical common data link assembly (UTA).
Meanwhile, only the AH-64D can communicate with the C-band data link on the AAI Corp RQ-7 Shadow, using a below-the-rotor MUM-T2 data link supplied by L-3 Communications.
So the Army now plans to field a new data link for the AH-64 that can transmit and receive data and video in four different frequency bands – C, D, L and Ku.
Last month, the army selected L-3’s MUM-TX data link to replace the UTA on the AH-64E and the MUM-T2 on the AH-64D.
The MUM-TX “will bring us a combined capability,” says Col Jeff Hager, the army’s AH-64 project manager.
L-3’s MUM-TX packages a ROVER 6 modem, multiband radio, and a directional antenna into an above-the-rotor data link assembly.