The US Air Force has announced a new delay for a programme that would allow several combat aircraft, including the reclusive Lockheed Martin F-22, to communicate with each other in battle.

A competition for the first phase of the Objective Gateway programme was scheduled to begin in mid-August, but now the first step in the acquisition process - releasing the request for proposals - is on indefinite hold, according to USAF acquisition documents issued on 11 August.

"Additional information on the programme status should be available by 31 August," says the Electronic Systems Center.

F-22 & F-16 formation 

The centre is managing Objective Gateway on behalf of the office of the secretary of defence, which classified the programme as a "special interest" on 25 February.

The project is aimed at deploying a communications payload that can bridge data and voice communications between the F-22 and other fighters, which now use incompatible radios.

Beyond connecting the stealthy F-22 fleet, the Objective Gateway would also connect many aircraft that lack the Link 16 datalink into the battlefield network. It builds on a five-year-old programme originally sponsored by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency called the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN).

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the BACN payload, although other companies are likely to compete for the Objective Gateway. Northrop's original platform for BACN relied on a Gulfstream business jet, but the company has recently switched to the Bombardier Global Express.


Source: Flight International