back to article F-22 superjets could act as flying Wi-Fi hotspots

US defence contractors have carried out the first flight tests in which America's latest cutting-edge fighter targeting radars have been put to novel use - as high-capacity wireless datalinks. This crafty use of existing hardware has the potential to ease military bandwidth bottlenecks, and could offer a chance for expensive …


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  1. Dillon Pyron

    At last, a use

    At last we have a use for an air superiority fighter. Which I was working on in 1986.

  2. Stephen Gazard

    see if you see a watchkeeper...

    ... simply shoot down the one closer to the base you know about, and hey presto it's a sitting duck too, only the army now knows roughly where it is.

    If it's been programmed to head towards the last known location of the previous droid to maintain a datalink, you could even find it returning to base, and giving away the location of the base if you did not know it's location. That would make things interesting as a method of finding the enemy base. kill more than one bird with a stone...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what happens when they switch it on..

    Hello F22 pliot,

    my name is Barrister Macaulay Kava, I connected to your F22 Hotspot with my WinXP laptop when I saw you fly over Lagos.

    Would you be intersted in a business proposal.....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HD Friendly Fire

    Hmmm, install High Definition camera's on the craft, and live stream the whole thing back to a command centre. "Hmm, does that look like an Iraqi convoy, or our allies? Hmm, well, thats a Challenger 2 battletank, and the british flag on its pole... do we engage?"

    No acconting for military intelligence, but at least it would all be on a HD recording for the courts. "On trial today, Lt. Sod Procedure and Capt. Blind Bastard."

  5. Steve Evans

    David Soponski, there's one problem

    They don't give out the recordings to UK courts even when asked!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No flyzone over las vegas...

    ...during defcon i'll bet!

    0WN3D!! Now lets download some hd pr0n...

  7. Silas Humphreys

    So it can act as a flying hotspot...

    because it has this fancy transceiver mounted in it that can also be used as a radar. I may be going out on a limb here, but would it not be more cost-effective to take the odd knackered old B-52, mounts loads of the uber-radars in them, and send them up with spare flight crews and tanker support? Then, they'd have a far less expensive flying relay, with endurance limited by how many microwave meals they can cram in rather than by the pilot's bladder...

    In other words, the F22 is still a monumental waste of money and ingenuity looking for a purpose.

  8. Morely Dotes

    It can also act as a forward-deployed weapons platform

    @ Silas: Once the drone has identified targets, a decision can be taken. Can the drone destroy the target? Drones have a more-limited capacity for expendables, so if the F-22 is deployed in relay position, and the drone can't manage the target, the F-22 may be ordered forward to engage. Or, if the drone is attacked by enemy fighters, the F-22(s) may be sent in (the drones still can't effectively fight back in air-to-air combat). In both cases, the F-22 would arrive much faster than if it had to be manned and launched from a rear-area airstrip after the target is identified, and speed to the target can make a huge difference in how effective the attack is.

  9. Jeff Beasom

    Make it truly useful by giving it "Sheppard" capabilities.

    Just an idea:

    Take a F22 and convert the two main bays to hold fuel and a second AESA system in data only mode. This second ASEA will then be used to control Predators and Reapers and serve as an archive/buffer/relay point for the high bandwidth data. The F22 can then uplink to a satellite or relay to a properly kitted AWACS for major decision making.

    Using this one to many relationship with the F22 allows for quick on the spot fire support for advancing forces or for ambushed forces. Hunting targets would also be much more effective as you have a pilot on the spot that is able to find, mark and kill targets in rapid successions instead of having some sod in a trailer half way around the planet waiting for approval to go find the target again and then hopefully kill it. Even if the pilot has to wait for approval to kill the target, they are sitting there right on top of it just waiting for the “yes”.

    The radar signature of the F22 means that it can be in hostile territory commanding the drones and not be in serious danger (as a larger less stealthy craft would be) while relaying close in tactical data to command. Should some airborne competition show up, well the F22 can just sneak up on its ass, pop off a heat seeker and enjoy the fireworks.

    When its time to refuel, the F22 just goes back to friendly skies, tops off and then re-links with the drones which went into auto data gathering mode when the F22 left.

    Just my 4.2 cents…

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But the f22 is stealthy

    But the F22 is stealthy - unlike the B52 it isn't seen by radar.

    So unless of course the enemy has any of the Reg's wifi hotspot finders it's perfectly safe

  11. heystoopid


    Curious , what if one uses a very large synthetic multi-mode variable frequency spin skip pulse doppler space based array radar , coupled with some very fancy digital signal processors and very fast multi array computers , up low earth orbit where one is looking down from above the target!

    Thus any flying object with wings will have a relatively large flat surface area , to act as a radiation reflector irrespective of the nature of the low radiation material used to cover the same!

    Where to now my lovely?

  12. JJ

    Slight flaw...

    Link-16/MIDS is actually capable of lots of stuff, the bandwidth is usually more than adequate for all sorts of realtime data exchange. Though you can't stream video, which seems to be the primary point of this.

    Anyway, I may have spotted a slight flaw in this concept. While all the data link systems in service transmit at frequencies that make them very much line of sight, using the radar has a further downside.

    Conventional data links will use a conventional antenna, not exactly omni-directional but reasonably capable as long as you aren't pulling wild maneouvers that end up masking the antenna from the receiving party e.g. banked turns.

    With a combat radar though, both the transmission and reception paths are going to be in a relatively narrow window, forward of the aircraft. Exactly how narrow would depend on the performance and configuration of the antenna array, and how steerable the beam is. Which means you're basically only going to able to swap data with someone who is not only in front of you, but flying towards you!

    OK, with a C2 platform like an AWACS with a fully steerable array maybe they could be flying in another direction other than towards you, but they'd still need to be in front of you.

    And of course, in order to use this you're going to have to activate a system which will have more enough power to show up on ESM systems for miles around. (Aircraft radios are usually a few 10's, to a couple of hundred watts, the radar will be low double-digit kilowatts)

    So, given it isn't really necessary for the majority of data transfer tasks and the extra functionality isn't the kind of thing pilots will want to use 99.9% of the time, that it's difficult to use in flight because of the flight profile you have to adopt, and that it'll advertise your presence to anyone with basic detection gear, I can see this getting firmly put on the 'interesting, but useless' pile.

  13. Mark Allen

    WiFi-Hot spots

    Is this Northrop Grumman's entry into the Wi-Fi mini-droids competition by using "off the shelf kit"? They just misunderstood the size requirements.

  14. Andy Bright

    I don't believe people are seeing the bigger picture here..

    You know how it is, you kicking around Iraq, creating your latest master piece to upload to YouTube.. and it's not until you're finished that your realise your connection speed isn't up to par.

    "Hey sarge, I'm having trouble uploading this sequel to my amusing song about murdering Iraqis.."

    "Well just call in an air strike on that telephone pole over there, and hit 'send' as soon as you see a spec on the horizon.."

    "Shit I wasn't fast enough.. is there another telephone pole nearby or should I call an air strike on that post box?"

  15. Ru

    Anyone ever read Iain M Banks?

    Sounds like the Effectors he thought up. Clever stuff.

  16. Remy Redert


    Or more precisely, lack thereof. It's nice that the F22 is a stealthy airplane, but while it's in stealthy mode, it can't even use its own radar for fear of giving its position away, thusly, any attempt to use said radar array to transfer data is going to generate much the same result, a very unstealthy F22.

    Much better to upgrade your friendly neighbourhood AWACS or B52, heck the B52 is big enough to act as airborn refueling and command post for the previously mentioned drones as well being a great way to transfer data around the battlefield

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    you don't need the space based array to detect stealth aircraft, it can be done using a few coherent GNU radios e.g. USRP with passive bistatic radar processing of any wild emitters, typically B3FM or better DAB. (a few hundred quid or less!)

    Allegedly the Serbians used their GSM network disturbances for detecting stealth, which allowed them to deploy their NATO countermeasure, usually a doorless 650Watt microwave oven with *a very long mains lead* for 'painting' the F-117's, perhaps lighting up the threat warning whilst an SA-3 came from another direction.

    some details on the "first ever stealth aircraft downed" here

    NATO publicly attributed the F-117 loss to visual observers and 'luck'

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just a thought

    They spend all this money on advanced radar and comunication equipment, but..

    they still can't pronounce nuclear.

    Shouldn't they be working on there communications skills first?

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