The Multifunction Advanced Data Link waveform developed by Northrop Grumman was successfully demonstrated in a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter program flight test, validating an eight-year development effort to advance communication among fifth-generation aircraft.
MADL is a high-data-rate, directional communications link. It allows coordinated tactics and engagement to bring significant operational advantages to fifth-generation aircraft operating in high-threat environments. MADL is a key capability provided by Northrop Grumman’s F-35 integrated communications, navigation and identification avionics.
The F-35 CNI avionics flying onboard two Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft established the MADL link between two airborne platforms for the first time. Data passed between aircraft via MADL was correlated with data from other F-35 sensors by Lockheed Martin’s fusion system to form a simplified situational awareness picture on the cockpit displays.
“During the flight tests, MADL functioned reliably with excellent range at multiples of required specifications while demonstrating ability to network fifth-generation fighters,” said Mike Twyman, vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems division for Northrop Grumman Information Systems. “This success is a significant achievement for the F-35 program and enabling joint aerial concept of operations.”
The MADL flight test is an important element of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Block 2 software release, which provides advanced mission systems capability at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and other training and operational locations. At Edwards, MADL joined the CNI Link-16 and Variable Message Format network waveforms already in flight test on F-35 aircraft.
Northrop Grumman’s integrated CNI system provides to F-35 pilots the equivalent capability of more than 27 avionics subsystems. By using its industry-leading software-defined radio technology, Northrop Grumman’s design allows the simultaneous operation of multiple critical functions while greatly reducing size, weight and power demands on the advanced fighter. These functions include Identification Friend or Foe, automatic acquisition of fly-to points, and various voice and data communications, including MADL, which was approved by the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Requirements Oversight Council for use on all low-observable platforms.
As a principal member of the Lockheed Martin-led F-35 industry team, Northrop Grumman performs a significant share of the work required to develop and produce the aircraft. In addition to developing and producing the CNI system, Northrop Grumman produces the center fuselage; designed and produces the aircraft’s radar and electro-optical subsystem; develops mission systems and mission planning software; leads the team’s development of pilot and maintenance training system courseware; and manages the team’s use, support and maintenance of low-observable technologies.