New Pilot on Navigating F-35 Comms: ‘It Is Extremely Simple’

DefenseTech // August 16, 2017

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is one of the most software intensive mission systems ever built that allows it to take in, process and display a host of information to its pilot.

It’s given critics a reason to blast the aircraft as a flying computer instead of just an aircraft, giving the pilot more unnecessary tasks if he or she were in battle.

But because of its state-of-the-art design, how a pilot uses, for example, its data communications network is surprisingly simple, an F-35 pilot recently told

“Operating between the systems is really easy. I don’t have engineers’ understanding of the systems, I couldn’t tell you how to design them, but I can tell you it is extremely simple,” said 1st Lt. Brett Burnside, who recently graduated the Air Force’s B-course at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Th “B-course,” or the basic flight class, is part of the 61st Fighter Squadron at the base.

For example, the F-35 operates on the F-35’s Multi-Function Advanced Datalink system, or MADL, as well as the legacy Link 16 system, common to many U.S. military platforms.

“For MADL, all I have to do is set a local net for my flight, one through 12, and then my node, which is kind of my position, I put my node as either two or four as a wingman, and I hit active on two different antennas and I am in the net[work],” Burnside explained.

By comparison, Link 16 has a few more “button pushes. But pretty transparent. Really, you could tell someone how to get into the link, type it in, enter the net, and that’s all they need to know.”

“It’s extremely, extremely easy to utilize the datalinks — very user friendly,” Burnside said of the overall comms network.

Read the full article from Defense Tech.