1 CBCS, 37th AS employ Link 16 extension capability

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexcia Givens
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The 1st Combat Communications Squadron partnered with the 37th Airlift Squadron to conduct its first exercise employing new technology on Aug. 25, 2022 in Aérienne Grostenquin, France.

The 1st CBCS facilitated an airdrop with the 37th AS using a ground node that enables Airmen to connect with aircraft in the air using their Link 16 system.

The exercise provided validity to the 37th AS’s use of upgraded electronics in its C-130J Hercules fleet by utilizing Link 16 equipment, which provides aircrew with tactical datalink capabilities increasing situational awareness and enhancing air picture comprehension. The 1st CBCS Contingency Airfield Operations Flight introduced these capabilities by establishing an austere landing zone/drop zone coupled with TDL communications.

"With this Link 16 technology, we can paint a picture for the pilots well before they reach the LZ or DZ, allowing them to focus on more critical aspects of flight and configure their aircraft for drops or landings” said Master Sgt. Bruce Zaragoza 1st Combat Communications Contingency Airfield Operations Flight chief.

To facilitate the exercise, landing zone safety officers used the 1st CBCS information superiority vehicle, which contains the mobile ground-based Link 16 node to establish a communication path with incoming C-130J aircrew. Previously, LZSOs relied strictly on line-of-sight voice communications, which can often be limited to approximately 20 nautical miles based on terrain and obstructions. However, utilizing the communication path that Link 16 provides, LZSOs and aircrew can communicate upward to 200 nautical miles, allowing both parties to pass information more efficiently well beyond previous limitations. By transmitting information through Link 16, LZSOs can provide pertinent information via secure text or voice messages, allowing aircrew to better adapt in an austere environment and mitigate threats to safety of flight.

In addition to Link 16 Operations, 1st CBCS utilized the exercise to partner with controllers from the 86th Operations Support Squadron to provide training for prior-experience LZSO personnel to sustain proficiency, enabling more flexibility for agile combat employment within the USAFE-AFAFRICA command.

“The airfield operations community as a whole is embracing the multi capable airmen concept. We want to maximize the opportunities to work and train together to ensure that those who aren’t actively in mobile units still stay current with the skills they possess.” said Tech Sgt. Kristian-Mathew Penafiel.

The event succeeded in testing capabilities for multiple squadrons and provided the opportunity to increase the 86th Airlift Wing and the 435th Air Ground Operation Wing’s interoperability.

“The training at GTQ was an outstanding opportunity to hone some our core herk competencies while also allowing us to gain hands on practice with our new Link 16 suite. Having this experience, as well as having access to more users and locations with datalink capabilities, is invaluable as the 37th Airlift Squadron continues to transition to Block 8.1 modified C-130Js. The training provided by the LZ party is a perfect example of something we can do today which enables us to better integrate into the future Joint fight.” said Capt. Alexander Humphrey, 37th Airlift Squadron Chief of Tactics.