(Herndon, Va., December 23, 2009) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has equipped and fielded Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) on a U.S. Army Hunter MQ-5B Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), which has been deployed in support of the Afghanistan surge. The TCDL increases data transfer rates and doubles the communications range on the MQ-5B Hunter, enabling additional payload capabilities.
With the addition of the TCDL, Hunter now complies with requirements for all modern UAS aircraft to have encrypted data and video links. The TCDL also serves as a foundation of establishing interoperability among different U.S. Department of Defense air vehicles and ground stations. Such innovation also allows for manned aircraft to use unmanned aircraft, their sensors and weapons as an extension of their own capabilities keeping aviators out of harm's way.
TCDL also allows for smoother integration of present and future Hunter payloads that exchange digital data using airborne ground computers. 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.
"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."
The MQ-5B Hunter, which is currently deployed in contingency operations, provides warfighters with state-of-the-art reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA), communications relay, signal intelligence, and weapons delivery. Hunter recently surpassed 80,000 flight hours, 53,000 of which are combat-related.
The RQ-5A Hunter was the Army's first fielded UAS. The MQ-5B is the next-generation Hunter, continuing a legacy of service to Army corps, division and brigade warfighters. Flying over the battlefield with its multi-mission optronic payload, the MQ-5B gathers RSTA information in real time and relays it via video link to commanders and soldiers on the ground.
The MQ-5B Hunter is distinguished by its heavy fuel engines, its "wet" (fuel-carrying) extended center wing with weapons-capable hard points and a modern avionics suite. 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 MQ-5B features a robust, fixed-wing, twin tail-boom design with redundant control systems powered by two heavy fuel engines - one engine to "push" and another to "pull" the air vehicle. Another Hunter capability is its relay mode that allows one Hunter to be controlled by another Hunter at extended ranges or over terrain obstacles typical of those found in Afghanistan.
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