Home Europe British Army, Navy Wildcat helos trialing joint tactical data link solution

British Army, Navy Wildcat helos trialing joint tactical data link solution

Photo: British Army

The British Army and Royal Navy are trialing a new solution that will enable their Wildcat helicopters to share tactical data link communication through a joint solution.

The tactical data link (TDL) is a joint project by the Army and the Royal Navy consisting of two separate but mutually reinforcing data links – Link 16 and the Bowman communications system. Through TDL, the helicopters will share battlefield data more effectively to neutralize targets at speed.

Fitted to the Wildcat, it will increase the potency of the helicopter in its role as a reconnaissance platform; A more lethal ‘eye in the sky’.

Photo: British Army

“What this project is seeking to do is link a battlefield reconnaissance helicopter into the Bowman data network, which means we’ll be able to share digital information about the positions of the enemy,” Colonel Oliver Stead of 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team, explained.

“What that will mean is that a Wildcat will be out in a tactical position, it will identify an enemy vehicle or location, and will be able to transmit that over the Bowman network.

“The goal is to tie it into the artillery fire control system so they can then prosecute the target or to send it to other users who would do that.”

“When combined with the Army’s latest attack helicopter, the AH-64E, it will significantly enhance the Army’s attack reconnaissance teams by reducing the time it takes to pass targeting information around the battlespace and thus increase the speed at which the Apache’s firepower can be brought to bear,” he added.

The TDL digital connection will complement the sensor suite already fitted to the Wildcat aircraft and reduce the reliance on voice communications that can be prone to errors or take time.

On the most recent experimental flight over Salisbury Plain Training Area, during exercise Wessex Storm, the Wildcat provided critical information to the Battlegroup Headquarters that was planning and executing their fire missions – the assignment of a specific target usually including orders as to when to fire and the amount of ammunition to be used.

If the continued trials are successful, it will be the first time Bowman Data will have been integrated into any battlefield helicopter and highlights the importance of long-term collaboration between the MOD and expert industry partners.

According to the British Army, the flight trials will conclude towards the end of the year when the Army and the Navy will assess the performance of the data links, with a decision to roll out the TDL across the whole Wildcat fleet.