Army copter gets new communications

The Army will use the Link 16 network instead of the Enhanced Position Locating Reporting System as the RAH-66 Comanche stealth helicopter's communications system, according to a service memo.

Comanche is the Army's next-generation reconnaissance and attack helicopter, and it will start flying September 2009. Although the helicopter was originally meant to use EPLRS, Army officials cited concerns about the system's radio frequency limitations compared to satellite-based communications systems, stated the memo. The memo detailed a Nov. 4 meeting about the helicopters by top service officials, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker.

"Take EPLRS out of Comanche Block 1 and integrate TADIL-J Link-16 in its place," the Army memo said. The office of Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, will lead the effort assisted by Training and Doctrine Command (Tradoc) located at Fort Monroe, Va.

The Army likely chose Link 16 over EPLRS because missions in Iraq and Afghanistan proved the coverage and value of satellite communications versus radio systems. Link 16 is a high-capacity, secure digital communications system that supplies near real-time data and connects tactical commanders to warfighters in the air, on the ground and at sea. EPLRS is a networked, software-programmable, data distribution system equipped with cryptology and an expanded radio-frequency range.

Tradoc will also submit a report due Dec. 3 to Schoomaker on what makes the stealthy-looking helicopter program with a price tag of almost $60 billion worth funding. "Which aspects of the Comanche make it really special? Determine what could really make this aircraft 'special' and focus on those aspects," the Army memo said.

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