Northrop Grumman Demonstrates In-Flight Technology for Contested Space

Defense company Northrop Grumman announced the completion of a new data link technology demonstration to connect a fleet of aircraft in contested airspace for a long-range command and control network.

The new technology is expected to make a significant contribution to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) initiative.

Tom Pieronek, chief technology officer and vice president for Northrop Grumman, described the new in-flight technology as something that is “built on advanced low size, weight and power electronics, enabling integrated and secure communications across domains supporting the DoD’s JADC2 strategy.”

In the demonstration, the high-endurance long-range aircraft Scaled Composites Proteus was linked to the hybrid drone Firebird.

The two linked systems performed a simulated mission and connected back to a cloud-based 5G network testbed through a novel prototype multi-level security switch.


The DoD’s JADC2 strategy rests on coordination between the various military branches of the United States, which are not currently interconnected. The systems and equipment of the army cannot interoperate with the navy or the air force, etcetera.

Decisions in highly contested airspace need to be made very quickly, calling for a much higher degree of interconnectivity.

In its presentation paper for the JADC2 strategy, the DoD likened its vision for the program to how Uber vehicles and customers are interconnected. Once a customer places an order for a ride, Uber’s system can quickly make a decision on which unit to assign to that customer.

So far, all three military forces of the US — the army, air force, and navy — are at work on separate projects for how they can implement the JADC2 strategy within their forces.

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