Tests Show F-35s Can Share Data With Older Aircraft
Two weeks of joint testing of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet at a California air base by the Royal Netherlands Air Force showed that the new stealthy jets are able to share a significant amount of data with older warplanes, the pilot in charge of Dutch F-35 testing told Reuters.
Colonel Albert De Smit, commander of the Netherlands operational test detachment, said the testing sought to validate that the new fifth-generation F-35s could share useable data with older F-16s and aerial refueling aircraft via the Link 16 system.
He said the results showed that during combat, the F-35 could help relay key targeting, surveillance and other data to less capable F-16s and other planes, in much the same way that the U.S. Air Force's F-22 fighter jets work with older aircraft.
"The amount of information that we can share is very promising," De Smit said in a telephone interview this week. "It provides fourth generation aircraft with information that they normally would not have ... It looks like they're going to be able to execute a better mission" if used together with F-35 jets.
He added that it could take months to fully evaluate the results of the tests, which involved two to three Dutch and British F-35s, as well as Dutch F-16s, refueling planes and a small fleet of A-4 Skyhawks posing as enemy aircraft.
The Netherlands is one of the eight countries that joined the United States in funding development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and its military is a formal part of the F-35 operational test community, along with the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, as well as Britain and Australia.
The Netherlands already had two F-35 A-model jets, which are being used for the testing, and it plans to order 37 more in coming years. The planes due to go into service in 2019.