Marines AH-1Z Gets Boost from F-35B Pairing
United States Marine Corps aviation in the Pacific is taking full advantage of the Bell AH-1Z Viper’s capabilities, and its new pairing with the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II.
In a media visit to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA)-169 in MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Captain Daniel Kelly, AH-1Z pilot and the unit’s flight line officer in charge, told AIN that the introduction of the F-35B to the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) gives the ability for the jets to jam and neutralize radar threats, giving the helicopters a higher survivability, and allowing them to perform their escort and close air support tasks. The powerful avionics of the F-35 are also able to oversee the battle and “manage” the helicopter assets below them. Moreover, the greater range of the F-35 compared with the AV-8B Harrier II means that the amphibious assault ship can be located at a greater stand-off range before deploying helicopters and amphibious vehicles.
Kelly also noted that the Viper’s Target Sight System (TSS) is “incredibly important,” and could provide target designation for the F-35 up to a 10-digit grid accuracy, which gives the jet the ability to release its munition from above thick cloud cover. While currently there is no datalink between the two platforms, Link 16 is expected to be integrated into the Viper by FY22/23 under the H-1 upgrade program, along with Digital Integrated Full Motion Video data transfer capability.
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