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Is a Lack of Secure Comms Keeping the F-22 Out of Libya Fight?

by John Reed on March 25, 2011

There’s been lots of speculation as to why the F-22s haven’t been sent to Libya; everything from basing concerns to the embarrassment the U.S. would suffer if one of its premiere jets went down in Libya.

An anonymous tipster points out another little fact that may have contributed to the lack of Raptors in Op Odyssey Dawn; the jet’s don’t have the ability to pass secure info to other NATO planes due to their lack of the Link-16 datalink. Instead, the F-22 uses something called the Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL, pronounced “eye-fiddle”) to pass all sorts of info to other F-22s without being detected by the enemy.  The problem is, the Raptor’s advanced data link only works with other Raptors.

The Air Force is currently working to install Harris’ Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL, pronounced “maddle”) in the Raptor. This will allow it to securely communicate with the nation’s other stealth jets; the B-2 Spirit bomber and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, both of which will also have MADL.

For now, the Raptor fleet can only talk to itself without breaching secure comms.  This may well have been a significant factor in the decision not to include the pane in NATO’s campaign against Gadhafi’s troops.

This situation may not last too much longer, for a few years now, the Air Force has been experimenting with a device that attaches on to the vaunted Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (a system that translates information between the different types of data links used by the U.S. military and its allies) allowing it to interpret data from the Raptor’s IFDL into Link-16’s format.

 

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