|Close air support and attack helicopters like this Cobra will benefit from a new U.S. Joint Forces Command-funded software software/hardware package which recently had its first successful test flight.
New USJFCOM-funded close air support capability takes off at China Lake
StrikeLink/A, a new U.S. Marine Corps close air support capability (CAS), had its first successful test flight at China Lake, Calif. The new software/hardware package allows for even more precise CAS actions and enables interoperability between CAS aircraft.
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By Spc. Andrew Orillion
USJFCOM Public Affairs
(CHINA LAKE, Calif. – July 8, 2008) – Close air support (CAS) missions took a dramatic leap forward following a successful test of a new technology, sponsored and funded by U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), here last month.
StrikeLink/A, an aircraft version of the StrikeLink targeting system, combines software and hardware to make CAS missions more effective and safer, said Chris Behre, chief of the capability systems engineer branch, Joint Capability Development Directorate.
It does this by digitizing targeting information and providing video image capture and exchange capability to U.S. Marine Corps CAS aircraft, applicable to the AV-8B Harrier II jet aircraft, the USMC version F-18, and the AH-1 SuperCobra attack helicopter.
Traditionally, CAS uses voice communication with ground forces relaying information to the incoming aircraft using radios. This information includes target location, best angle of approach, terrain and other factors. StrikeLink/A eliminates the need to communicate all this information by voice, Behre said.
“All of that information can now be digitally sent in a matter of a few milliseconds as opposed to three or four minutes of talking between the pilots and the tactical air controller on the ground,” Behre said.
In addition to digitizing targeting data, StrikeLink/A also allows the operators to digitally communicate other vital information such as aircraft location and battle damage assessments.
StrikeLink/A allows pilots to capture images from their pod-mounted video cameras and relay that image to the controller on the ground via the Variable Message Format protocol. The controller returns the image with precise targeting markings.
“So when he (the pilot) gets his coordinates, digitally, he can slew that camera to where he’s being told the target is. He can take a picture of that, send it back down to the guy on the ground, who sees it on his computer, does a markup of that picture and says ‘it’s the fourth house over, you want to take out this house not the one next to it”, Behre said.
With its first successful test at China Lake, StrikeLink/A’s next test will be at Bold Quest Plus, beginning July 15 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. If tests there are successful, Behre said StrikeLink/A will be installed on Marine Corps aircraft in the near future and could be installed on Navy and Air Force aircraft as well.
“What this means for the warfighter is that he will be able to get weapons on target in a close air support mission much faster and more accurately,” said Behre.