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Joint Strike Fighter F-35B
The F-35 (pictured) and F-22 fighters have shared sensor information under a Northrop-Grumman demonstration. (Cpl. Ken Kalemkarian / HHS)

Northrop Grumman has demonstrated a data link capability between fifth- and fourth-generation aircraft.

In flight tests conducted in April, the company "validated the ability to simultaneously link and translate both the F-35's Multifunction Advanced Data Link and the F-22's Intra-Flight Data Link to common Link 16 messages," said a Northrop Grumman announcement. Link 16 is the standard NATO data link.

Honeywell Aerospace provided dual-band advanced tactical data link antennas for Jetpack, which can be mounted internally or in pods.

"A total system solution – not just a waveform or just a radio – is required for fifth to fourth to become a reality," said Jeannie Hilger, vice president of network communication systems at Northrop Grumman Information Systems. "Jetpack implemented a system to allow fourth-generation fighters to access the bounty of sensor information from the fifth-generation aircraft."

"This important capability – enabled by our Freedom 550 Joint Enterprise Terminal – leverages Northrop Grumman's F-35 avionics development to provide a production-ready, affordable solution for our joint forces," Hilger said.

The April tests concluded the final phase of the Jetpack JCTD. Northrop Grumman was the lead contractor on the program, which was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, Pacific Command and the Defense Microelectronics Activity.

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