Northrop Grumman [NOC] is watching planned U.S. Air Force tests this year of the company’s Freedom 550 gateway radio on Lockheed Martin [LMT] U-2 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft and the related Freedom Pod under the Air National Guard’s (ANG) Ghost Reaper concept.
Air Force testing of its future Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) last year saw the use of the Freedom 550 to link Lockheed Martin F-35 and F-22 fighters, and the company envisions the use of the Freedom Radio on a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft as a communications node (Defense Daily, Feb. 23).
To advance ABMS and the larger DoD Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept, Northrop Grumman officials have said that they are pursuing a variety of communication gateway solutions to enable military services to share information quickly across domains and platforms. Other than ABMS, Northrop Grumman said it has been involved in communications solutions for the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence and Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) efforts and the U.S. Navy’s Project Overmatch.
Variants of the Freedom Radio 550 are operational F-22s, F-35s, and on Boeing [BA] KC-135 and KC-46 tankers as a roll-on/roll-off capability, per Northrop Grumman.
The company is also looking into providing gateway capabilities on Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) aircraft, such as Skyborg, and pod variants.
Back in 2015, Northrop Grumman said that it had demonstrated the use of the Freedom 550 on a U-2 during a flight test at Edwards AFB, Calif., to link the fifth generation F-22, using the stealthy Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL), with a Navy F/A-18 Hornet, using the standard military data link, Link 16.
The current Air Force testing of the Freedom Radio on the U-2 may determine whether the service outfits the fleet of 31 U-2s with Freedom Radios.
Air Force testing is also ongoing of Northrop Grumman’s Freedom Pod under the Air National Guard’s Ghost Reaper concept for the General Atomics MQ-9A Block 5 drone.
General Atomics said that it flew a company-owned MQ-9A Block 5 drone last month to demonstrate a newly developed Centerline Avionics Bay (CAB), which is to provide space for new, advanced capabilities.
The ANG’s Ghost Reaper concept “establishes MQ-9A as a critical, multi-source correlation engine in a contested fight,” per General Atomics. “The capabilities being developed and integrated onto MQ-9A will also become the catalyst for the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) construct.”