USAF to test data link between F-22 and F-35 aircraft

Harry Lye 8 November 2019 (Last Updated November 8th, 2019 13:15)

The US Air Force is set to start testing a secure data-link that will allow its enable its F-35 and F-22 fighters to communicate in December.

USAF to test data link between F-22 and F-35 aircraft
US Air Force F-16 Viper, F-35 Lighting II and F-22 Raptor fly in formation. Credits: US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham.

The US Air Force is set to start testing a secure data-link that will allow its enable its F-35 and F-22 fighters to communicate in December.

The tool being developed by the US Air Force (USAF) will translate information from the two aircraft models allowing pilots to share targeting, location and other data between the two aircraft platforms, according to Breaking Defense.

USAF chief systems architect for the Advanced Battle Management System Preston Dunlap announced the move yesterday at the Defense Ones Summit in Washington.

The data-link will allow for the stealth aircraft to communicate vital information without comprising on their stealth capabilities by using traditional radio-wave communications like those used to communicate with non-stealth fighters.

Testing is due to begin in December with new functionality to be released on a quarterly basis. The communications tool is part of a wider push to pull together the US Air Force’s varying information streams.

The F-35 and F-22 communications use unique data-links meaning they can only communicate with other aircraft of the same type. The solution would connect these two unique data-links through a gateway that translates the information.

As the system is developed, the USAF plans to add more platforms, increasing the amount of equipment that can directly communicate across land, air and sea domains.

Both stealth aircraft are designed to penetrate deep into enemy airspace, with one of the F-35’s most advanced features being its network capability. Secure data-links enable the fighter to communicate without giving away its position in hostile environments.

At the summit, the USAF also revealed plans for a situational awareness tool called ‘Omnia One’ that will provide operators with a unified picture of the battlespace.

According to Air Force Magazine, Dunlap said: “You can see a picture, you can click on the ship, [and see] where it’s been, where it’s travelling, what’s on the ship. … We need to be able to get that to our warfighters in a way that’s accessible.”

The USAF hopes that eventually, the tool will be able to show all assets the US military has in a given area to enhance situational awareness.