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US Stealth Jet Has To Talk To Allied Planes Over Unsecured Radio 270

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-some-good-planning-there-lou dept.
Lasrick writes "David Axe at Wired's Danger Room explains: 'For the first time, America's top-of-the-line F-22 fighters and Britain's own cutting-edge Typhoon jets have come together for intensive, long-term training in high-tech warfare. If only the planes could talk to each other on equal terms. The F-22 and the twin-engine, delta-wing Typhoon — Europe’s latest warplane — are stuck with partially incompatible secure communications systems. For all their sophisticated engines, radars and weapons, the American and British pilots are reduced to one-way communication, from the Brits to the Yanks. That is, unless they want to talk via old-fashioned radio, which can be intercepted and triangulated and could betray the planes’ locations. That would undermine the whole purpose of the F-22s radar-evading stealth design, and could pose a major problem if the Raptor and the Typhoon ever have to go to war together.'"
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US Stealth Jet Has To Talk To Allied Planes Over Unsecured Radio

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  • by Brandano (1192819) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:16AM (#42965741)
    If the F22 has to keep stealthy, it can't irradiate, period. Transmitting any sort of signal would allow a third party to triangulate its position. If the Typhoon is not concerned with hiding its position, it can transmit without worries. The only mitigation against discovery through listening in passively to the Raptor's transmission is to either devise a system to transmit on multiple frequencies in a way that cannot be distinguished with background noise, or hop frequencies in the hope that the eavesdropper won't be able to match the signal for more than a fraction of the time.
  • Link 16 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jacknifetoaswan (2618987) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:26AM (#42965837)

    As someone who once worked a project to implement Link 16 into a laptop on a HUMVEE, Link 16 is very easy to implement. If the Air Force wanted it, they'd have it. In all likelihood, the Air Force is unwilling to share the Raptor's targeting data, as they don't want the operational capabilities of the radar/IFF/command and decision systems to be revealed to anyone, including one of our closest allies. Such data can reveal the range of the radar, the resolution, and the characteristics of the radar when it comes to jamming and clutter. Obviously, all this data is classified as secret or above, and is almost certainly not for release to foreign individuals.

    Remember, the F-22 is the only airborne weapons system that the US Government refuses to sell to other countries, because it's an apex predator. There's nothing out there that can rival it, and even the F-35, which is basically a follow-on of F-22 technology, is no match for it. Thus, we'll sell it to allied countries, but the F-22 stays US-only, in the case that if we're ever involved in an air war where we're back to old school air superiority, there are no air forces that can match ours.

    That said, I remember reading an article a couple weeks ago, where a new pod is being installed in several US fighters that allow for interoperability with the F-22, over a form of encrypted radio. Basically, the pod allows the fighters to act as a sort of wireless access point, which interfaces with the F-22 and any other fighter with radios that don't talk the same language.

  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:36AM (#42965915)

    A good question is how much radar data from passive only F22 is to a typhoon that has its active radar powered up. F22 essentially cannot fire up its radar and stay stealthy for obvious reasons, so its passive radar only. The major part of data link is sharing targeting data. F22 is designed to feed off allied aircraft's search and fire control radar data for both target acquisition and weapon guidance.

    Not having proper communications link is a bitch, that's certain. But F22 is just not designed to be fighting alongside aircraft it needs to talk to in the first place. It's the silent hunter that doesn't really see anything on its own, and just listens to what allied aircraft tells it via datalink or what it can scrounge up from passive sensor data, and then performs interception based on that data. It apparently can also occasionally fire up its own fire control radar in short pulses to minimize risk of detection, but it's simply not intended to be an actively radiating aircraft.

    The stupidity here is that it has no standard NATO datalink for cases where it has to perform other roles. It's one of the reasons why F22 hasn't seen any combat to date. There are no pure air superiority missions in the modern world for US airforce, and F22 is pretty incapable of doing anything properly else because of the way it was designed. Lack of common data link is just one of the design choices that hurts that aircraft really badly when it comes to doing anything else.

  • Re:Ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dave420 (699308) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @10:09AM (#42966283)
    He was probably referring to public key cryptography, which was indeed invented in Britain first. Due to the official secrets act, it was not revealed until after some clever people in the US figured it out, too. Interesting anecdote: The Brit who came up with it figured out all the mathematics involved in his head without writing anything down, as he did it at home, where his job forbade him from writing anything work-related down.
  • by Luckyo (1726890) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @10:10AM (#42966297)

    Far more importantly, these are wars fought where people involved actually live. There is a massive disconnect in the Western countries about the entire concept of war, largely driven by mass media.

    You see, even modern wars fought by West, like Iraq and Afghanistan are fought on the ground. The main difference is that one party only has army living out the realities of the war, while its civilian population is far away and doesn't have to experience any of the harsh reality of wars. Wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, only the enemy civilians are exposed to the war.

    And yes, I know that official propaganda line is that they're not the enemy. It doesn't change the fact that they are treated like enemy civilians of occupied enemy nation, and the fact that they react like such civilians, by widely supporting local guerilla freedom fighters who are fighting asymmetric war against far more powerful invader that has no non-mercenary civilians of its own exposed to the war.

    Personally I recommend BBC's Bomb Alley.

  • Re:Ironic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garyebickford (222422) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .cib73rag.> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:17AM (#42967119)

    You just triggered a thought. It is possible to build an emitter (transmitter + antenna) that simulates a completely different emitter, including a diffuse one. This is done by working backwards from the far field equations. This was originally done (AFAIK) to develop a sonic equivalent of a laser that worked underwater - the scientists worked backwards from the far field equation for a coherent sonic beam, and successfully came up with and built a sonic emitter that resulted in the desired coherent beam. Another recent related example of working the equations are the successful experiments in 'invisibility cloaks'. So by determining what the far field of a diffuse emission would be, it should be possible to build a radio transmitting system that was essentially invisible in the sense of determining where it came from, at least from a significant distance.

    In fact, a similar methodology might be effective in countering the latest threat to stealth - reading the disturbances in the milieu of the many terrestrial radio sources such as cell towers and power lines. As early as the Kosovo war, experimenters successfully located stealth planes by measuring the distortions in the field that is generated by the cell tower network. This is somewhat like seeing the distortions of ocean waves caused by islands or other fixed objects. So, by continuously monitoring those fields, a stealth plane could compute the necessary interference to make its own distortions of the fields disappear.

  • by garyebickford (222422) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .cib73rag.> on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:36AM (#42967387)

    I wonder if they are using some form of Ultra Wide Band. UWB is best for short distances in part because 'optical' effects become important, but if it works it is extremely difficult to discover - at every frequency the signal is below the noise floor. It's only detectable if one knows the digital pattern that is being used, and there are a zillion possible patterns. In the sky, away from reflective and refractive distorting obstacles, it is probably usable over longer distances. IANA EE, however.

  • by caveat (26803) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @12:43PM (#42968415)

    The point of the whole secure-comms thing as I understand it is to have one 22 staying well out of range of the hostiles with its targeting radar active (which totally screams HI GUYS HERE I AM LOOK AT ME YAAAAAAAAAAH!), feeding the info unidirectionally to a few more Raptors that are much closer and have all their radio and radar emitters quiet; they receive the data, feed it to their tracking and targeting systems, and fire all without (theoretically) compromising their stealthiness - the bad guys see one fighter 150 miles away and think "ha ha dumbass is lighting us up from out there!" and next thing they know six AMRAAMS appear out of thin air 20 miles away.

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