As interest in fifth-generation fighters builds in the UAE, a top Royal Air Force officer explained at the show how the Eurofighter Typhoon is already demonstrating how a non-stealthy fighter can integrate with the Lockheed Martin F-35 in contested airspace.
The Typhoon is already equipped to send and receive data with the F-35s on Link 16, a NATO-standard datalink. But Link-16 uses an omnidirectional antenna that is not compatible with the radio – Harris's Multi-function Advanced Data Link (MADL) – that the F-35 uses to communicate with other F-35s while in stealth mode inside contested airspace.
But the Typhoon has already demonstrated the capability to transmit and receive data with the F-35 in training flights and exercises in the USA, says Air Vice-Marshall Gerry Mayhew, air officer commanding for the RAF’s No 1 Group.
“This is not something we’re dreaming of. This is something we’re doing,” Mayhew says. “We’re already operating fourth- and fifth-gen fighters in exercises in training. This is also using new systems as well as the Link 16 systems.”
Asked to elaborate on the new systems that allow the Typhoon to transmit and receive data with F-35s flying in communications stealth mode, Mayhew declined, saying he could not talk about the technology.
But the public record offers clues about the solution that is referred to by Mayhew. Last February, Northrop Grumman announced that the RAF held an event in the Mojave desert in California called Exercise High Rider.
The exercise included an demonstration called Babel Fish III. An F-35 transmitted data from MADL to a Northrop-designed airborne gateway system, which translated the message into a waveform that could be interpreted by the Link 16 radio on board an RAF GR.4 Tornado.