Sustainable Connectivity for Enhanced Flexibility
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the US Missile Defense Agency and the US Air Force have successfully demonstrated linking disparate airborne platforms and providing 5th-generation real-time dataflow to ground forces, the company announced on 3 May.
Project Hydra showed 5th-generation to 5th-generation connectivity between a U-2, five F-35s and an F-22 in the air and ground-based operators, introducing improved mission flexibility across domains and enhancing the operational picture for joint forces. The flight test leveraged an Open Systems Gateway (OSG) payload aboard the U-2 to connect an F-22 to five F-35s via native Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) and Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), successfully sharing data between all airborne platforms and with nodes on the ground. The target tracks were also transmitted by and through the U-2 into the fighter avionics and pilot displays.
“Project Hydra marks the first time that bi-directional communications were established between 5th-generation aircraft in-flight while also sharing operational and sensor data down to ground operators for real-time capability,” highlighted Jeff Babione, VP/GM Lockheed Martin Skunk Works.. “This next-level connectivity reduces the data-to-decision timeline from minutes to seconds, which is critical in fighting today’s adversaries and advanced threats.”
The Project Hydra effort also marked the first time F-35 sensor data was delivered to an operational ground system over a Tactical Targeting Network Terminal (TTNT) link using an airborne gateway. This data was then sent to the US Army Integrated Battle Command System (IBCS) Airborne Sensor Adaptation Kit (A-Kit), also developed by Lockheed Martin. The A-Kit then transmitted data to the IBCS Tactical System Integration Laboratory at Fort Bliss, TX. IBCS used the F-35 sensor data to conduct a simulated Army fires exercise.
The core of the Hydra payload leverages the Open Mission Systems (OMS)-compliant Enterprise Mission Computer 2 (EMC2), facilitating F-22, F-35, TTNT and Link-16 connections. By leveraging both the line-of-sight and beyond line-of-sight datalink capabilities of the U-2, data can now be shared directly with tactical users and globally to C2 nodes like the Common Mission Control Center (CMCC). During this demonstration, both the CMCC and Shadow Operations Center at Nellis AFB were able to view the sensor and platform data to enable situational awareness for operational C2 of highly capable air assets.
Bringing the power of 5th-generation data and exposing new C2 opportunities across multiple domains continues to demonstrate Lockheed Martin’s readiness to provide unmatched battlespace awareness and to rapidly field capability today. This demonstration is another key step in the company’s support for the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System and the Army’s Project Convergence, supporting the goal of providing commanders with critical tools for the joint all-domain battlespace environment.