All U.S. Aircraft Could Talk to Each Other, Someday

All U.S. Aircraft Could Talk to Each Other, Someday

The Air Force’s Chief Information Officer, Lt. Gen. William Lord just shed some more light on how the Pentagon is working to solve the timeless problem of getting all its jets, satellites and ground vehicles to talk to one another using their datalinks.

“Today we have this dog’s breakfast of different datalinks, formats and configurations in the airborne network,” said Lord during an Air Force Association-sponsored conference on cyberwarfare yesterday. “So our staff, quite frankly working with the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Army is coming up with the Joint Aerial Layer Network” that will link ground, space and airborne communications nodes together allowing them to talk to one another.

Lord mentioned the plethora of datalinks on the air side alone that have extreme trouble talking to one another, from Link-16 and Link-11 found on older jets to the F-22’s Intra Flight Data Link (IFDL) and the F-35’s Multi Function Advanced Datalink (MADL). Here’s more detail on the difficulties in getting these systems to communicate; difficulties the new network is designed to overcome, said Lord.

The soon-to-be gone U.S. joint Forces Command is conducting an analysis of alternatives on how to develop this new network that is expected to wrap up sometime this fall, according to Lord.

All this comes after weeks of speculation that the real reason the F-22 Raptor was kept out of the Libya fight was its inability to securely communicate with other aircraft via its datalinks.




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I guess the good old days of just calling on the radio are gone :-( Do they still have Guard frequency, one place where everyone could get on and jabber incoherently?

Depends how you mean “communicate”. And yes the situation is pretty appalling. It is my understanding though that the F-35–because of the mountain of software to get over–will have Link-16 early on which is good enough for most situation.

The F-22 has no problems in pure A2A. There with a wall of F-22s and legacy aircraft on the same side. The AN/ALR-94 tied to the whole system, tells the pilot what other legacy aircraft are locking up so he can tell them over the radio that lets say two are locking up the same target and to reduce redundant locking. Not bad and the F-22 has enough SA in this situation to cause a lot of grief.

As for the excuse of not using the F-22 in Libya, SA-5 sites (the old very long range SAMs) were at fixed and known sites. Today’s F-22 with JDAM could have taken them out no problem with minimum resources. Once SA-5s are gone, legacy aircraft with JDAM and JSOW can contempt of engage the other threats–easy. So the choice that they decided not to use them was most likely due to the operational creativity of the planners.

Yeah, but that doesn’t work when trying to network firing solutions. Say if F-15 (A) has an inop radar and has missiles, but F-15 (B) has a working radar but no missiles.… (B) could lock onto the target, link the firing solution to (A), who then fires a missile. You can’t do that by calling over the radio.

“The F-22 has no problems in pure A2A.”

Well it would be nice if the F-22 could network with other aircraft. That way the other aircraft can act as the spotters and lock onto targets for the F-22, who could then use the firing solutions to fire missiles without giving away it’s own position by emitting radar signals (even with it’s radar operating in Low Probability of Intercept mode). Also, in numerous exercises, the USAF experimented with using the F-22 as a “light-AWACS”. They found that the F-22 was actually able to have faster response times in certain situations over the E-3, though it’s still no replacement. The F-22 would do exponentially better in this role if it was capable of properly networking with other aircraft, shaving off precious seconds in response time, reduce radio traffic (which is also susceptible to garbaged transmissions), and reducing further pilot inputs (allowing them to concentrate more on other stuff).

Datalinking is used in numerous ways, not just preventing redundant target acquisitions by multiple aircraft.

Another example of how datalinking is used is in providing mid-course updates for the AIM-120 missile. With mid-course updates, the AIM-120 has a claimed 90% probability of a kill (pk). In the interception stage of flight, the missile will use mid-course updates provided by the launching aircraft’s radar as a guide toward the target. At the terminal stage of flight, the missile activates it’s own onboard radar and actively guide itself, no longer requiring the launching aircraft’s mid-course updates. Without mid-course updates, in the interception stage the missile will use inertial guidance to fly towards the general area of where the target will probably be based on it’s last known location, heading, and speed.… in this instance, the pk drops to 50% (because the AIM-120’s radar is relatively short-ranged). Using datalinking, other aircraft (such as the E-3 Sentry aka “AWACS”) can provide the mid-course updates in place of the launching aircraft.

There was also a recent experience in which an F-15E Strike Eagle’s aircrew operated as makeshift aerial joint terminal attack controllers (JTAC) for a CAS mission involving numerous aircraft. This is not standard operating procedure, nor is it common practice. Given the operational circumstances, they performed well. But it still should not become SOP, because an F-15E in the air won’t see certain things that ground personnel can, carrying an increased risk of friendly fire. Likewise, ground personnel can’t see certain things that aircraft can. If all parties (aircraft and ground personnel) could properly network their information, they can all see what each other sees.… SA is exponentially increased for everyone, and the chances of friendly fire becomes minimized. Information is the most important weapon in battle.

Hi all,

It’s my understanding that the F-22 does *not* require datalinking for the passive radar detection shot. The F-22 simply aligns its radar to the proper frequency, and watches for the reflection of the spotter aircraft’s beam using the AN/ALR-94 passive system.

The lack of Link-16 on the F-22 is puzzling, but there are still alternatives.

SA-5s aren’t useful against much more than big, large-RCS targets like B-52s anyway. I’m sure modern ECM really messes with their effectiveness too. A Wild Weasel F-16 could take them one out easily enough but since they can’t be moved, a Tomahawk does the job without any risk to such pilots.

A JTAC in the air is also called a FAC-A. Those have been around since the Korean conflict.

F-15E’s don’t make good platforms for the role, unlike the slower flying OA-10 (which is a secondary role for the A-10, not a specially designed role) and the older AT-6’s from way back. Nor are F-15E aircrews especially trained in the role. I wanted to highlight this weakness, but stress the added flexibility that the faster moving strike fighters could bring if they were better integrated into the battle network, instead of being daisy-chained into the network through a C3/4 platform that may not always be present.

A minor correction; the earliest applications of FAC would be the First World War, though clunky at the time (as was aviation in general).


You mentioned that the F-22’s radar would have to align itself to the proper frequency… I see a problem posed by the fact that modern fighter radars employ frequency hopping to counter basic radar jamming techniques. The F-22’s radar would have to sync itself with the spotting aircraft’s radar for this to work, which would still require communication between the two aircraft. If the spotter was another F-22, this is a non-issue, but the issue at hand was between dissimilar aircraft.

If it does work without datalinking with dissimilar aircraft, then I would think that when numerous targets are being illuminated at once by various aircraft in a hot engagement, it would get a little clunky when having to confirm targets over the radio to avoid redundant missile shots.

Sure you can. You can send data from one computer to another. We do it all the time. They just have to have a secure network and be in communication range or use one of our satelites to relay the info like we did to send patriot missiles to destroy scud missiles fired at our other ground sites. We used satelites to get coordinates and projectory info to shoot them out of the sky.


To the poster “Trophy”

You wrote: “A minor correction; the earliest applications of FAC would be the First World War, though clunky at the time (as was aviation in general).”

To be exact: Reconnaissance / F.A.C. was the very origin of ALL warplanes (and airforces) itself.

Thank you “General” (I am Worthless” Merrill Anthony “Tony”) McPeak and of course Admiral “We must have 1000 additional 19knt Afterburning Ships, so to stop the madness I am now the Chairman of the JCS” Mullins, and of course the Prime “Give me additional Funds at 15% Profit after cost” Integrators for totally SCREWING Up the Air Force and Navy with your “Let put everything into Stealth”!!! Your Legacy Continues!!!!!

These “Leaders” are supposed to oversee the acquisition process in the DOD instead they listen to the Prime Integrators so they can retire from the DOD and put on their civilian cloths and step into a position with Lockheed and other integrators. This type of behavior needs to STOP!!! We were ready, willing and able to integrate the entire battlespace over 5 years ago. However, these morons including General Lord and Admiral Mullins decided not to fund TTNT or integration effort to make things happen, Instead they integrated F-22’s Intra Flight Data Link (IFDL) and the F-35’s Multi-Function Advanced Data link (MADL) that cannot communicate with anyone except either F-22 or JSF!!!!! This is Outrages and incomprehensible for responsible leaders to allow all but these outdated 20 year old F-22 and JSF. They Bypassed the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System (JCIDS) Process and Title 10. The need to be FIRED!!!

General Lord should be Fired

Once again you are spewing forth non-sense in regards to a subject that you are ignorant of. These senior leaders have let both JSF and F-22 development without any connectivity between themselves. In fact, the cost to integrate both MADL, IFDL has been HUGE!!! Better yet both of these platforms cannot talk or communicate between themselves or the B-2. Yet another reason to put JSF, F-22 and B-2 where they belong in the Bone-Yard at Davis Monthan with a Sign that states “How Not to Run an Air Force”. On-top of all of this Stealth is Dead!!

The S-400 SA-21 is capable of destroying stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers (3 miles) per second.

I think the timing for this things to happen is overdue. This should have happen a long time ago.

J68 at the Pentagon is worthless. The organization should be dismantled. They have no way forward, and no way ahead. Their leadership knows nothing. There is no such thing as connectivity in the DOD. The only connectivity is between the integrators and Wall Street. With these fools in charge we will never have the capability or interoperability with any nodes including JSF and F-22. Who in the hell would purchase two platforms that has no connectivity between any other platform?

I’m supprised they can’t now​.It would be like the time of Babble(Bable?) LOL…


Everybody here completely missed the point: Transmitting a datalink signal is just like transmitting a beacon so the enemy can find and kill you. it defeats the advantage we have in stealth. Get it?


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