Northrop Grumman [NOC] has demonstrated a network that allows fifth-generation fighters jets such as the F-22 and F-35 to communicate and share data with earlier generation aircraft, the company said Tuesday.

An F-35. Photo: U.S. Air Force
An F-35. Photo: U.S. Air Force

The system, known as Jetpack, was developed under the Joint Capability Technology Demonstration program. It allows the fifth-generation jets to link up to older F-15s, F-16s and F-18s.

“Networking these aircraft will improve connectivity and communications, creating a force multiplier to dramatically increase the effectiveness of the total force,” the company said.

The final phases of the JCTD program took place in March and April with flight tests at bases in California and Nevada and involving Jetpack simultaneously linking and translate the F-35’s multifunction advanced data link and the F-22’s intra-flight data link to messages for Link 16, a common U.S. military and NATO system for ground, air and sea based platforms.

The JCTD program is sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, Pacific Command and the Pentagon’s Defense Microelectronics Activity.

Jetpack can be installed internally on the aircraft or operate on an external pod, Northrop Grumman said.