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Flying Solo: Mid-air Communication No Simple Task for Top US Fighter Jets

© Flickr / US Air ForceLockheed Martin, another leader in the industry with its F-35, F-22, F-16, F-117, and C-130s saw shares grow more than 3.53%.
Lockheed Martin, another leader in the industry with its F-35, F-22, F-16, F-117, and C-130s saw shares grow more than 3.53%. - Sputnik International
The fleet of F-22s and F-35s makes up the most advanced attack warplanes in the United States’ arsenal, but a long-standing oversight has left pilots with limited options to communicate with one another during missions.

Due to the stealthy flying, advanced sensors, and other capabilities, both the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are classified as fifth-generation fighters. The F-22, though, was designed during the mid-1980s as a pure air superiority fighter. The Raptor's Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) is compatible with F-15 Eagles and other older aircraft, but the F-35's Tactical 16 Link communication system is not fully interoperable with IFDL.

A F-22 Raptor fighter jet of the 95th Fighter Squadron from Tyndall, Florida approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at the Royal Air Force Base in Mildenhall in Britain as they fly over the Baltic Sea towards the newly established NATO airbase of Aemari, Estonia September 4, 2015. - Sputnik International
WATCH: US F-22 Pilots Shoot the Breeze While Filling Up Midair

"There have been a lot of improvements that could have been done and should have been done 15 years ago. The Air Force postponed a lot of things for the F-22," David Rockwell, an analyst at Teal Group, told Bloomberg on Monday.

According to Bloomberg, the Raptor's communications set up can accept data from the F-35, F-16, and Eurofighter, but it cannot relay a single bit of the swaths of situational data back to the other aircraft.

What's troubling about the lack of interoperability is that the F-22 is a data gathering monster, and "the F-35A and F-22 are very complementary assets, particularly in highly contested areas," a US Air Force spokesman told Bloomberg on Monday.

Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system - Sputnik International
Northrop Grumman Wants Global Hawk Drones to Fly With F-22s and F-35s

For now, the pilots have adopted a secure voice link as a temporary measure, but the F-22 is not slated to get the Tactical Link 16 upgrade until 2023. According to Billie Flynn, a former Royal Canadian Air Force squadron commander who now works as an F-35 test pilot for Lockheed Martin, the temporary solution has been adequate during training and simulated combat.

Last year, Northrop Grumman proposed flying RQ-4 Global Hawk drones alongside Raptors and F-35s to facilitate data transmission between the aircraft.

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