The US Army will field a live video streaming system in the third quarter of this year which will enable its Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter crews to receive data directly from the service's unmanned air vehicles, plus some air force and navy strike aircraft.

Approved for roll-out across nine of the army's Apache battalions by the end of fiscal year 2009, the video from unmanned air systems for interoperability teaming Level II - or VUIT-2 - system will show streaming images from nearly all US-operated UAVs now operating in Afghanistan and Iraq on the Apache's multi-function displays.

The video streaming technology was demonstrated at the 28 January-1 February Army Aviation Senior Leaders Conference at Fort Rucker, Alabama, using an AH-64D and an AAI Shadow unmanned air vehicle. Such co-operation has previously relied on radio transmissions made by the UAV's operator.

"This is a big step for manned-unmanned teaming," says Col Derek Paquette, Apache project manager for the US Army's programme executive office for aviation. "VUIT-2 will increase the survivability and lethality of the Apache Longbow by providing aircrews and ground commanders increased situational awareness, decreased sensor-to-shooter timelines and increased reaction time."

Developed in less than a year, the VUIT-2 system will also enable Apache crews to receive video from US Air Force Boeing F-15s and Lockheed Martin F-16s, and US Navy Boeing F/A-18s, using the Lockheed Sniper or Northrop Grumman/Rafael Litening targeting/reconnaissance pods.

Source: Flight International