F-22 and F-35 Aircraft Finally Talk Stealth to Each Other, U-2 Spy Plane Helps

The U.S. Air Force, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, and the Missile Defense Agency successfully connected five Lockheed Martin F-35 and an F-22 fighter in the air by passing data to one another using a communications gateway aboard a U-2 spyplane.
Project Hydra enables for the first time communication between F-22s and F-35s 1 photo
Photo: Lockheed Martin
The latest flight test, dubbed Project Hydra, used an Open Systems Gateway (OSG) payload aboard the U-2 to link an F-22 to five F-35s through an Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) and a Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL). The demonstration made it possible to exchange data in free flight between all aircraft and ground nodes.

The Airforce has been trying over the years to develop a new technology that could make this type of communication possible. Up until recently, the F-22 couldn't transmit stealthy data to any aircraft besides other F-22s. The F-35s also couldn't communicate with the F-22s except at the voice level. All because each aircraft used different Low Probability of Interception (LPD/LPI) communications.

Project Hydra marked the first time when F-35 sensor data was transmitted to an operational ground system via a Tactical Targeting Network Terminal (TTNT) by using an airborne gateway. Its core is based on an Open Systems Gateway (OSG) payload installed in a U-2 Dragon Lady. This system also helps F-22, F-35, TTNT and Link-16 connections. The F-35 sensor data was used as well to perform a simulated fire exercise.

The U-2 enabled the six aircraft to communicate with each other and with global command and control units even when they were out of the line of sight. Data was shared to command and control (C2) nodes like the Common Mission Control Center using the U-2's line-of-sight (LOS) and beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) data link capabilities (CMCC).

Project Hydra reached a milestone, making the communication between F-35s and F-22s possible after many attempts. This flight test's success also demonstrates progress in data-sharing across the Air Force, as well as other branches of the U.S. military.
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About the author: Florina Spînu
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Florina taught herself how to drive in a Daewoo Tico (a rebadged Suzuki Alto kei car) but her first "real car" was a VW Golf. When she’s not writing about cars, drones or aircraft, Florina likes to read anything related to space exploration and take pictures in the middle of nature.
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