For the first time a US Marine Corps F-35B made a Link 16 connection with the USS Wasp’s Ship Self Defense System (SSDS), allowing the stealth fighter to securely share digital tactical data with the US Navy vessel and surrounding support fleet, information that could be used for defense against an air attack.

Sharing data from the F-35B’s sensors with the SSDS, hardware and software that coordinates defensive missiles, decoys and electronic warfare weapons on board surface ships, would allow the USN more situational awareness of incoming missiles. Anti-ship cruise missiles flying at sub-sonic and supersonic speeds just above the surface of the ocean pose one of the greatest threats to vessels.


F-35B Lightning II departs the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp

US Navy

The system’s manufacturer, Raytheon, says data shared between surface ships and the F-35B could help detect targets, assign tasks and share aircraft status information, such as fuel levels or weapons inventory.

“Information is key for any commander – and shared information from multiple sources and vantage points extends our battlespace and our advantage over enemy threats,” says USN Capt Danny Busch, who leads the programme executive office for Ship Self Defense System. “Now with the ability to link our sensors and weapons, from sea and air, SSDS is providing a level of interoperability and defensive capability never before available to the Expeditionary fleet.”

The USS Wasp is an amphibious assault ship – a miniature aircraft carrier and landing craft transport – that can launch the USMC’s short takeoff and vertical landing F-35B from its flight deck. Link 16 is an encrypted military network used by NATO and other US allies to share tactical data.