Netting the Gunship

The 46th Test Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., recently completed the first flight test of an AC-130 gunship fitted with a new data link processor and software that gives the gunship’s crew unprecedented real-time access to secure battlespace data, voice, and navigation information, including the location of friendly and hostile forces. Rockwell Collins, maker of these components, announced yesterday that these modifications are part of the Link 16 upgrade for the AC-130s that BAE Systems is performing. They “will greatly enhance the warfighter’s situational awareness,” said Phil Jasper, Rockwell’s vice president and general manager of mobility and rotary wing solutions. During the initial flight test, data were passed between the AC-130, a ground station at Hurlburt Field, Fla., a system integration lab at Eglin, and an F-16. The Air Force’s AC-130s are one of the most in-demand assets in the war on terror and are being used at exceedingly high rates, Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said last month. In addition to capability improvements, such as the Link 16 connectivity, they also require maintenance overhauls, such as new center wing boxes, to keep them flying, he said.