17 Agustus 2016
RAAF C-130J cockpit (photo : GungHo)
DARWIN, Australia — The first Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 Hercules to be fitted with a Link 16 Tactical Data Link (TDL) system has begun operational test and evaluation during Australia’s largest air-power exercise.
As exercise Pitch Black enters its third and final week this week, the C-130J will be operating low-level tactical missions in a high-threat environment, supporting Australian and US Special Forces within the remote Bradshaw and Delamere training ranges in the Northern Territory. What is different, however, is that it will be connected to the networked battlespace for the first time in its operational career.
Australia is installing an Engility Corp. Joint Range Extension (JRE) TDL system into all 12 of its Hercules, and the installation is unique in that there are five display terminals: for the pilot, co-pilot, the two loadmasters in the cargo bay and the auxiliary crew station in the rear of the flight deck.
“This specific fit-out is unique to Australian Defence Force (ADF) airborne assets and what we have now is both a Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS) and Line Of Sight (LOS) capability,” explained Flight Lieutenant Shaun Wilkinson, a C-130J pilot with No. 37 Squadron and a member of the Link 16 integration project team.
“There is also no other C-130 worldwide that has this system, no other Hercules has integrated Link 16 with a loadmaster station before.”
FLTLT Wilkinson said that the first operational sortie using Link 16 was only flown at the end of last week, after two weeks of testing.
“The RAAF’s Command and Control unit here in Darwin (114 Mobile Control & Reporting Unit) is using parts of Link 16 that they’ve never used before with fighter aircraft, even when they go to Red Flag,” he said.
“What is important is that in the cockpit we are able to take in the entire picture in a quick glance, where normally we would have to listen to our voice radios to try and build a complex mental picture of what’s happening.”
The JRE systems are installed on a CMS TacView flight computer and on laptops, which are installed on the flight deck and in the cargo bay.
The upgrade work is being undertaken during regular servicing periods by Airbus Group Australia Pacific, the RAAF’s C-130J maintenance provider.
“The JRE team is thrilled with the recent success onboard the Australian C-130J, where the JRE solution was selected by the Commonwealth of Australia and Airbus to be the host system/TDL system for the Commonwealth’s major air platform,” Engility said in a statement to mark the conclusion of the ground-testing phase.