Link 16 datalink upgrade for ANG EC-130Js

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) revealed on December 14 that it has been selected to integrate the Link 16 tactical datalink upgrade onto the Air National Guard’s (ANG’s) Lockheed Martin EC-130J Commando Solo fleet.

As part of this contract – which comes with an undisclosed fee – SNC will provide and integrate the EC-130J aircraft with a secure communications suite that includes the Link 16 line-of-sight (LOS) tactical datalink. The firm states that it will rapidly equip the Commando Solo with this suite by leveraging its “engineering and integration expertise from the Airborne Mission Networking (AbMN) programme.” It adds that the Link 16 integration is “the first step in bringing common AbMN capabilities to the platform.”

EC-130J [US ANG/Senior Airman Zoe M Wockenfuss]
A Lockheed Martin EC-130J Commando Solo from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 193rd Special Operations Squadron lines up for fuel behind a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker on May 19, 2020. US ANG/Senior Airman Zoe M Wockenfuss

Jim Ickes, vice president of Programs for SNC’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Aviation and Security business area, said: “The EC-130J is our team’s first [ANG] integration programme. This is a direct result of our success in adding new capabilities to many other platforms, which certainly helps us to grow and diversify throughout the air force community.”

Integrating the Link 16 LOS capability is viewed as a critical component in enhancing the situational awareness of US Air Force (USAF) and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) platforms. The tactical datalink allows air, ground and naval assets to exchange data in near-real time to create a common operating picture of the battlespace.

The EC-130J Commando Solo is a variant of Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules family, which has been modified to conduct psychological operations. In carrying out this role, the aircraft is tasked with performing Military Information Support Operations (MISO) and civil affairs broadcasts in FM (frequency modulation) radio, television and military communication bands. The USAF operates seven EC-130Js, which are all operated by the Pennsylvania ANG’s 193rd Special Operations Squadron (SOS) from Harrisburg International Airport in Middletown.