F-22s Won’t Get F-35 Datalinks,Yet

F-22s Won’t Get F-35 Datalinks,Yet

Air Force leaders shed more light on the communications issues facing the F-22 Raptor today, telling lawmakers that the plane will not be receiving the same datalink being developed for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The service had been looking at integrating the Multifunction Advanced Datalink onto the F-22, F-35 and B-2 Spirit bombers in an effort to give all stealth jets a secure way of communicating.

MADL however, is not “mature” enough to install on the Raptor without incurring too much risk, said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz.

“We should let the F-35 development effort mature before tacking it onto the F-22, this was a cost and a risk calculation on our part,” the four-star told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee today.

He went on to say that the jet “can communicate” with older fighters using Link-16 via something called BACN, a version of which can translate info from the Raptor’s Intra-flight Data Link to Link-16 format; allowing it to communicate with older fighters. BACN has been critical in aiding communications in the skies over Afghanistan where it’s been mounted on everything from a Block 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk to business jets. (Here’s a more detailed explanation of these so-called communications gateways.)

However, when asked if the version of BACN that allows the Raptors to actually talk to other jets has been fielded, Schwartz couldn’t say.

So yes, in theory, the Air Force has a tool that can allow the F-22 to communicate with Link-16 equipped jets. In reality, it may not be fully fielded yet in sufficient numbers. The way Schwartz described it, anytime the F-22 would deploy with other fighters, it would need a RQ-4 Global Hawk drone equipped with BACN to be loitering nearby.

While the Air Force insists the jet wasn’t used in Libya because it is based too far from the fight, some speculate that its inability to communicate with other fighters is the real reason it was left out of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

So, given the fact that the F-22 is based far from Libya combined with the fact it would take the deployment of a Global Hawk equipped with a gateway, that may or may not be fielded, to allow it to talk to other jets, it seems like the communications issue may have played a role in the service’s decision to exclude it from Libyan ops. It would just be too much effort to quickly deploy the Raptor, a jet which wouldn’t have a heck of a lot of use in Libya, with its ancient air defenses, to begin with.




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BACN = Battlefield Airborne Communications Node. Here is an excerpt from the FY11 budget request (public domain info):

“The Air Force is leading the effort to develop a materiel solution to satisfy a CENTCOM Joint Urgent Operational Need (JUON) within the time parameters specified by the DEPSECDEF. The Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) JUON calls for 24/7 operation of the BACN payload to support current operations. BACN provides interoperability between disparate Tactical Data Links (TDLs) by receiving the various signals, bridging and forwarding them via an array of waveforms. This functionality permits single network operations and translation between Link 16 and Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), as well as beyond line-of-sight (BLOS) connectivity. BACN enhances this capability by connecting to the airborne IP network allowing information exchange. The BACN payload is an airborne data processing and communications system that integrates a suite of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) processor, storage and information technology (IT) equipment and existing military airborne communications systems. The BACN payload also integrates existing and newly developed applications and services to provide range extension and connectivity for dissimilar communications systems that process, translate, transmit and store critical data for end users (e.g., Combined Air Operations Center, Tactical Air Control Parties, Special Operations forces, and airborne command and control and tactical platforms. A prototype BACN equipped BD-700 has
been operating in theater since December 2008 per Deployment Order issued 29 August 2008. The BACN JUON is comprised of the BACN payload integrated onto two BD-700s and two Global Hawk Block 20 air vehicles operating as a system.”

“The way Schwartz described it, anytime the F-22 would deploy with other fighters, it would need a RQ-4 Global Hawk drone equipped with BACN to be loitering nearby.”

So if you’re a radar operator, and you see legacy teen fighters and Global Hawks on your scope, might wanna plan on Raptors buzzing around.

I’ll wager this and unexpressed diplomatic desires to keep allies from getting F-22 stealth data are primary concerns. Also, there must be airspace conflict having F-22s flying around other non-stealth aircraft. AWACS probably cannot see it and IFF may be turned off.

I’m sure airspace control measures are in place such as kill boxes where F-22s are the only things flying within an area at a specific altitude. Not sure how you would ever conduct positive control without communications or radar contact with F-35, F-22, and stealthy UAS/bombers. That means this will be a permanent concern operating around F/A-18E/F and EA-18G, and other ” teen” fighters and allies with less stealth.

It should have been equipped with a stealthy system that could talk to everyone, but the airforce brass (and for good reason). were trying to get as many of these awesome jets built. They tried a few ways to come up with money for more raptors, for instance: they retired a bunch of “low hour ” B-52s, they were going to scrap the C-5 upgrades and many more things to come up with money for the F-22s ‚they just wanted to get as many as possible built and upgrade them later. They are the Airforce ‚their job is to keep the enemy from attacking our troops, they know how much that we really need the raptor . But all gates saw was Airforce flyboys in a fancy very expensive jet , and he takes for granted that airspace belongs to America. Gates needs to go , hopefully before the F-22 line is shut down and someone with half a brain and concern for this country’s defense gets in there and restarts the line. GATES RESTART THE LINE!!! There is noway a F-35 can dogfight with a T-50 stealth jet. With detection ranges greatly reduced by time the stealthy jets see each other, your in a DOGFIGHT.

this plane was absolutely unecessary, like nuclear bomb, you don’t use them before one great event, i have big doubt USA going to war against russia, china, france, GB, or something else

Text excerpt: ““We should let the F-35 development effort mature before tacking it onto the F-22…”

Now the F-$$ program’s problems are beginning to affect OTHER fighter programs as well?? Is there something contagious about F-$$ disease?

The explanations for not sending Raptors to Libya are sounding less plausible by the minute.

Just having Raptors over Libya enforcing the no fly zone would have allowed the F-22 to exercise its ELINT capabilities. It would be like making a RIVET JOINT invisible and putting it directly over the high threat areas of the battlefield.

The F-22 has been communicating with legacy aircraft in many exercises like Red Flag with encrypted voice communications since it became operational in 2007 so this is not accurate.

This is all sounding suspiciously like a politically motivated decision. Really, how would it look to have Raptors in combat during the shutdown of the F-22 production line in April?

The preference for legacy aircraft in this operation sounds suspiciously like another strange Raptor moment involving this Administration…


More important thing is to have much more F-22 than to have them talking or dumb.

f-22 use it or lose it .….….…

they didnt use it .…..

Why on earth would you send an F-22 to Libya? If it were me I would put the oldest airframes in the fleet out there. The point of having a strategy is to actually use it. The F-22 is a deterrent and a precision strike weapon. What’s the objective of action in Libya again?

Point 1. I think part of the problem is we seem to be developing TDLs in conjunction with the platforms. We end up with a variety of TDLs to go with a variety of platforms and now we have to have separate gateway systems to allow them all to talk with each other. TDLs should be developed and fielded independently of the platforms so the entire fleet can be brought forward.

Point 2. I agree with John. The F22 has no business being in Libya. The lawmakers need to stick with lawmaking and let the warfighters fight the battles. Warfighters need to resist the temptation to play with their new toys.

JSF is a worthless, in fact a completely worthless Platform. Stealth is Dead thinks to the New SAM/IADS. JSF should be scraped immediately. Since 1999 when we lost our first F-117 on foreign soil during the Yugoslavia Campaign, most countries have exploited the stealth technology. In fact the F-117 was retired from Active Service in 2008. They are now sitting at Davis-Monthan AFB in the “Bone-Yard”.

Instead of scraping Stealth Technology the DoD continued on beating a dead horse while listening to Lockheed Marin as well as all the Retired AF Generals that worked this project, then of course went to work for Lockheed to influence the outcome and funding.
We are now stuck with a useless overpriced platform that was designed in the closet with NO Connectivity in the Battlespace, NO internal Air-Air “Gun” Weapon for Close Combat, NO capability to destroy any major target without integrating “Pylons” due to a non-existent “Internal Weapons Bay” (of course this makes the aircraft really non-stealth hanging pylons), NO connectivity to any legacy platform including F-22, NO Engine Inlet protection for RCS, Of course AFTER Burner or Augmenter section for Inferred Detection….

Hummmmmm!!! Let’s continue to purchase these worthless overpriced platforms to keep Lockheed Martin in existence at a whopping $150,000,000.00 + Each!!!
This Program Needs to be cancelled immediately and the funds utilized to benefit the Warfighter. Continue the effort to Upgrading the Connectivity we need in the Battlespace. For the Price we pay for this one useless none-conductive platform we could build Global Hawk, F-16, F-18, F-15 with a Large Warhead as a one-time use platform and never run out of direct fire weapons. I understand the people in Texas need Jobs and the President needs votes, but this platform is useless…. Our allies know the limitation and numerous countries are now purchasing other platforms to help in critical situations when we must drive in. We are wasting time here….

Stealth is dead? You clearly have no clue what you are talking about.

its cheaper and better then this costly crap of a f35 there still trying to build by 100mil and rising

must be forgeting the dog fight test were they pited 6 or so older platforms from f-16 through 18 against a single f22 and they all lost or the article how the rising complications with this new f35 how it now cost almost double the price of the f22 but yet the keep plugging at it and gates stopped production of the f22 when the 35 was still in R&D.

F-22 + MADL = F-35 killer.

Because you can either feed targeting for the GBU-32/53 from another asset (Blk.40 RQ-4 as AGS/JSTARS replacements) or give the APG-77 Blk.30 SAR modes to the entire fleet and let the Raptor silver bullet force kill the major SAMs while the legacy force (as F-16/F-18EF, not replaced by F-35s) flows in on Day 2–4-10 without the requirement for own-stealth.

You’ll still have to buy new jets because the existing Viper and Hornet fleets will be long in the tooth. But with the F-35 gone, there would be little or no reason not to further split the Day-1 interdiction mission with more cruise or ballistic missiles and that puts the manned aviation component at serious risk of block obsolescence replacement for (O&S) costs reasons.

Because the USAF is a pilot’s union before it is anything else, it will do whatever it takes to keep the superior F-22 as a micro-force from being competition to it’s bread and butter majority cockpit voter force. And those sticks will in turn go with whatever the upper management suggests, even if it is less than an ideal defense of our nation (the F-35 is truly junk), because upper management likely flew fighters too and there is a bond there.

One hand washes the other.


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