Cubic Defense Applications, a defense systems business of Cubic Corporation, received a $3.7 million contract from Northrop Grumman Corporation to produce a new multiband digital data link system for the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter. The data link uses smaller and lighter components to do the mission-critical job of transferring full-motion video and data from the aircraft to ground forces and surface ships.
Cubic’s ISR data link systems use radio frequency (RF) technology with open standard waveforms to transfer data and stream video to provide situational awareness before, during and after combat operations. The new data link enables high-speed transfer of information from the Fire Scout to ground and surface terminals.
“The vital information that Fire Scout’s sensors collect would be useless without a way to get it to the warfighters who need it for timely exploitation,” said David S. Miller, Fire Scout program director for Cubic Defense Applications. “Cubic’s MQ-8C Fire Scout data link system provides that ability, and its multiband capability will enable warfighters to conduct simultaneous missions.”
The system’s robust, modular architecture includes simple open-standard interfaces and a software-defined transceiver, using a data link with a smaller size and weight and reduced power consumption than is now used on the MQ-8B variant.
An integral component of the new system is Cubic’s Multiband Miniature Transceiver, or MMT. The MMT enables simultaneous Ku band and C band transmissions using dual data streams. The MMTs included in the Dual Channel Modem subassembly are small enough for Soldiers and Marines to carry in the webbing of their tactical vests.
“A data link system that used to be the size of a toaster oven is now the size of three Pop Tarts,” said Robert Kalebaugh, senior director of business development for Cubic Defense Applications. “The smaller size benefits manned and unmanned air platforms because lighter weight systems will save on fuel, which could allow the aircraft to fly longer missions. It is also much easier for ground troops to transport.”
Cubic has been manufacturing data link systems since the mid 1980s, when the company delivered its first Joint STARS data link system to Northrop Grumman. Cubic data links are now flying aboard unmanned air systems (UAS) and aerostats worldwide and are included in certain video exploitation and dissemination systems used by mobile units, special forces and intelligence teams. The U.S. Central Command is using the Cubic data link system aboard the MQ-8B, to provide full-motion video surveillance to ground forces in northern Afghanistan.