Northrop Grumman demos 4th- and 5th-gen jet communications

By Ryan Maass  |  Feb. 17, 2017 at 12:00 PM
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Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Northrop Grumman and the British Royal Air Force recently completed a communications interoperability demonstration using F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

During the two-week trial, called Babel Fish III, a Lockheed Martin F-35B communicated with a Typhoon fighter by translating its Multifunction Advanced Data Link messages into a Link 16 format. It was the first time a non-U.S. 5th- and 4th-generation aircraft shared MADL-delivered data.

Company officials say communications interoperability is essential for 5th-generation combat effectiveness.

"Being able to network sensor data between fifth-generation and fourth-generation fast-jets and other battlespace assets in a stealthy manner is critically important to enabling the full capability offered by fifth-generation aircraft," Northrop Grumman Europe chief Andrew Tyler said in a press release.

According to Northrop Grumman, the successful test was made possible by the inclusion of its Freedom 550 technology into the F-35's Airborne Gateway. The device is designed to translate information from various sources to enhance situational awareness and interoperability.

"This marks another great step forward in interoperability between our fourth- and fifth- generation aircraft, putting the RAF at the forefront of this work," U.K. F-35 program official Linc Taylor added. "We plan to continue to understand and develop where the most capability and interoperability benefit lies through a series of future trials along similar lines."

The demonstration concluded as Britain moves closer to approving initial operating capability for the Lockheed Martin F-35, which is expected to take place in late 2018.

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