F-22s using the communications gateway known as the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node resident on some RQ-4 Block 20 aircraft are able to pass data to other aircraft types in flight, said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz on Capitol Hill last week. “Our findings thus far is that this serves the purpose,” Schwartz told the House Appropriation Committee’s defense panel. He added, “This is an intermediate capability” until a more permanent data link solution is found for the F-22. Schwartz said the Air Force has deferred plans to add the Multifunction Advanced Data Link going on the F-35 to the F-22. The technology “was not yet mature enough,” he said during the March 31 oversight hearing. The Raptor’s current set-up allows F-22 pilots to pass information to other F-22s via an organic data link, but not directly to other aircraft types. (Donley-Schwartz prepared statement)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.