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British Army and Royal Navy trial tactical datalink in Wildcat helicopter

Pictured is the AW159 Wildcat helicopter, which has been trialling the Link 16 and Bowman tactical data networks for the British Army and the Royal Navy. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

The British Army and the Royal Navy are trialling a new datalink system in the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat helicopter as part of the army's Future Soldier transformation programme.

Known as the tactical data link (TDL) project, the British Army and the Royal Navy are trialling “two separate but mutually reinforcing datalinks – Link 16 and Bowman data – [which] will share battlefield data more effectively to neutralise targets at speed”, the army announced on 3 November.

The objective of the project is to effectively integrate the Bowman data network into a helicopter – such as the Wildcat – to bolster its reconnaissance capabilities. This enables the platform to share digital information about the adversary's position, said Colonel Oliver Stead, 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team for the British Army.

By integrating the TDL network with the sensor suite fitted to the Wildcat, the helicopter will be less reliant on voice communications, which can be prone to errors, the announcement said.

“When combined with the army's latest attack helicopter, the AH-64E, [the TDLs] 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,” Col Stead said.

During Exercise ‘Wessex Storm', held at the Salisbury Plain Training Area in February and March, the Wildcat delivered intelligence to the Battlegroup Headquarters that was planning and executing fire missions.

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