MQ-5B to Operate Tactical Common Data Link in Afghanistan

Preparing the MQ-5B Hunter Short Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for operational surge in Afghanistan, Northrop Grumman Corporation has installed the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL), thus increasing data transfer rates, doubling communications range on the MQ-5B, and enabling additional payload capabilities. TCDL is essential for interoperability among different U.S. Department of Defense air vehicles and ground stations and supports the encryption of data and video links. The TCDL also serves as a foundation of establishing interoperability. The new datalink also allows for smoother integration of present and future Hunter payloads that exchange digital data using airborne ground computers. (read more...)


Hunter MQ-5B UAV takes off on a test flight. Northrop Grumman photo.

The MQ-5B Hunter system uses the Army's One System ground control station and remote video terminal. It also carries a communications relay package to extend the radio range of warfighters. The Hunter's airborne relay capability offers unique advantages when operating over mountainous area, where ground control is extended through a Hunter operating at high altitude, acting as an airborne relay, enabling a second Hunter to descend to take closer views of the terrain in valleys and mountain slopes, where direct line of sight cannot be established with the control station. Flying at lower altitude is necessary to obtain closer views of suspected targets.

"When we changed from the RQ-5A to the MQ-5B configuration of Hunter, we doubled the endurance of the air vehicle. And with the data link transition, we have doubled the communications range giving the warfighter a much larger area of coverage," said Drew Telford, Northrop Grumman Technical Services' TCDL program manager. "As we enter our 11th year of deployed service in support of the U.S. Army, the entire Northrop Grumman Hunter team is keenly focused on bringing new combat multiplier capabilities to the warfighter faster than the traditional programs of record can." With additional digital payloads in the future for Hunter, the warfighter can expect an air vehicle that can bring multiple sensors to bear on an area of interest to the battlefield commander allowing for more rapid intelligence gathering, monitoring and even targeting of enemy forces.


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L3 Com is offering this TCDL assembly for aerial applications. Photo: L3 COM.