DH - Defence Helicopter

Apache controls Gray Eagle UAV

10th November 2011 - 15:28 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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An AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopter has controlled an MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAV during flight using the Longbow Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA).  Longbow is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

A Longbow company statement issued 9 November said that the UTA controlled the payload and flight path of the UAV during a flight test while both the Gray Eagle and Apache were airborne. Longbow called the test ‘a significant accomplishment in manned-unmanned teaming’, being the first time a UAV has been controlled from the cockpit of an Apache during flight.

The UTA test programme has now achieved all its goals with 100 per cent success according to Longbow. The two-way high-bandwidth data link allows Apache aircrew to control the sensor and flight path of an airborne UAV at long-ranges. The system, which is fully integrated into the Block III Apache mission computer, delivers real-time, high-definition streaming video onto multi-function cockpit displays. 

Lockheed Martin called the successfully demonstration ‘a true game-changing capability’; enhancing situational awareness between Apache pilots, ground commanders and the UAS to create a net-centric battlespace to ensure operational superiority and increase survivability.

The US Army's Longbow system consists of a fire control radar or a UTA, a fire-and-forget radar frequency Hellfire millimetre wave-guided missile, and an all-digital M299 launcher for the AH-64D Apache helicopter.  The Longbow UTA will be fielded on the Apache Block III aircraft beginning in 2012.

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