Lockheed Martin's F/A-22 Raptor fighter flight-test program has successfully demonstrated an Intraflight Datalink (IFDL) between two planes in the air. The link enhances situational awareness by creating an encrypted voice and data communications channel between the pilots. Seen as a key component of the Raptor's advanced avionics suite as the project moves toward its "Operational Test & Evaluation" phase.
The basic functionality of the IFDL was tested during an almost four-hour flight at Edwards Air Force Base in California by two F/A-22s.
"The IFDL is essentially an encrypted radio and wireless communications modem that allows Raptor pilots to covertly talk to and share information with each other without fear of being overheard by potential enemies," said Bret Luedke, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.'s chief F/A-22 test pilot, one of two pilots involved in this IFDL test flight. "The IFDL helps preserve the aircraft's stealthiness without requiring pilots to maintain radio silence or to communicate via visual signals; IFDL is truly a step forward in aircraft interoperability." Part of the Communications, Navigation and Identification (CNI) suite provided by the Radio Systems division of Northrop Grumman Space Technology , the IFDL allows formations of Raptor pilots to share information provided by each other's on-board and off-board sensors such as target tracking information. This will help prevent weapons from being unnecessarily launched or dropped on targets already being engaged by another Raptor.
More 20 years in development, the Raptor is scheduled to become operational in 2005 and has unprecedented fighter and attack capabilities. Its balanced design of stealth, supercruise speed - meaning that supersonic speeds can be reached without the need for afterburners - extreme agility, advanced integrated avionics such as fly-by wire and the pilot-friendly cockpit, make the F-22 a formidable addition to the US military arsenal.