Raptor Wi-Fi

wifi.jpgThe justification game for the F-22 Raptor continues: F-22 superjets could act as flying Wi-Fi hotspots:

US defence contractors have carried out the first flight tests in which America’s latest cutting-edge fighter targeting radars have been put to novel use – as high-capacity wireless datalinks. This crafty use of existing hardware has the potential to ease military bandwidth bottlenecks, and could offer a chance for expensive superfighters to be of use even in the absence of serious aerial opposition.

The latest generation of US military aircraft carry so-called Active Electronically Scanned Array* (AESA) radars, which are made up of many separate transmit-receive elements. AESA radars have long been heralded as miraculous multi-tasking kit, capable of acting as electronic-warfare scanners, jammers, or even electromagnetic weapons capable of frying enemy circuitry from afar.

There have also been ground trials in which the radar from America’s ultra-advanced, hyper-expensive F-22 “Raptor” stealth superfighter has been used as a kind of Wi-Fi card on steroids, able to transmit data at a blistering 548 Mbit/sec and receive it at Gigabit speed.

Now, I’m not arguing against taking advantage of everything you can. But as time goes on the F/A/R/C/E-22 Raptor…cleans windows too! plan seems more and more obvious. I noted that in December of 2005, and nothing since then has lessened the pressure to justify the planes in any number of weird ways.

Seems that flying datalink hub would be a great job for a UAV that could loiter for days. Or for a blimp that could loiter for weeks or more. Not for a superexpensive superfighter that can hang around for an hour.

Incidentally, why not put a megadatalink into a B-747 JDAM platform that could be circling miles above the battlefield? Wouldn’t a B-747 program command enough develpment dollars?


  1. Or for a blimp that could loiter for weeks or more. Funny – that’s the idea behind Liftport’s Tethered Tower idea. Even if I weren’t biased .. I’d like to think that the idea of a multi billion dollar fight plane as a datalink is pretty damned dumb. Let me backup – having it around as a tool ‘just in case’ might not be a bad thing. Flight test it, give each wing a few kits and make sure someone knows how to install it and keep it i your hip pocket. But the odds are good the defense contractors are not going to be happy with a limited production run. …. When you read verbage like this could offer a chance for expensive superfighters to be of use even in the absence of serious aerial opposition. It should be read as could offer a chance for the Air Force to be relevant in situations where they are otherwise relegated to flying cargo around the area and justify buying extremely expensive airplanes that otherwise have no mission Just saying.

  2. I can see the headline now, ‘A surprise attack on Washington by suicide Iranian f-14’s destroys White house as F-22 Cap aircraft are too busy providing data links for Democratic Congress to Youtube’ ‘Speaker of the house Pelosi Blames Bush for the lack of a backup plan as she defends the importance of up to the minute Youtube access for herself and her family while they circle Washington on their 747.’ ‘Chaney will assume power after he recovers from his recent double quadruple bypass and liver/kidney transplant.’ ‘Pentagon to purchase 20 more F-22-L luggage carrier variants for transportation printed legislation to congressmen in thier home states. Pelosi to keep one aircraft on standby to transport her spare shoes. What crap. the F-22 is a Fighter and designed to kill other aircraft. Nothing more. too expensive to be risked in groud attack.

  3. If the F-22 is too expensive to be risked in ground attack, what’s the deal with the F-35? I understand the unit price isn’t projected to be much lower…

  4. This really has little to do with the F-22, but has everything to do with the AESA radar sets. Basically contractors backed into a really good long range wireless transmitter/receiver system. For my two cents, I could give a rat’s as about the F-22 as a communication node. What interests me is the transmitter/receiver elements could be mounted on vehicles to give them high speed communications. (Not the whole Radar – just few elements.)

  5. Can anyone confirm whether or not radar is dangerous to humans. I have heard that pilots are not supposed to turn on their radar on the ground as it could cause injury to the ground crew. I also heard from an air force guy that the AWACS is not supposed to turn on its radar until 10 minutes after takeoff, and must turn it off 10 minutes prior to landing.

  6. Radar can be dangerous to humans depending on the power and the range. The reason they turn the radar off while on the ground is that somebody could be standing sufficiently close to the radar emitter, that if it were to turn on in certain modes, it would emit enough microwaves to cause damage in a person. Standing in front of a multi-kilowatt radar which is emitting in microwave bands would be about as smart as, well, sticking your head in a microwave and turning it on. I understand WW2 radar operators sometimes used to stand in front of their dishes to keep warm on cold nights. Now bump up the power to modern levels and you probably wouldn’t want to do that any more. AWACS is even more powerful than a fighter radar (although, possibly less focused in certain modes), so it makes sense that they have to wait even longer. P.S. AFAIK Electromagnetic radiation is only really dangerous to living creatures if it’s (a) ionizing radiation, such as ultraviolet light, or (b) close to the resonance frequency of compounds commonly found in a living creature. Microwave radiation is close to the resonance frequency of water molecules, that’s why microwave ovens work the way they do.

  7. I concur with Nicholas. As with everything else in life, RF at any frequency can be harmful to tissue if it’s intense enough. But the most dangerous radiation is ionizing radiation. By a very long run.

  8. Hell, why not put the F-22 radar in the nose of a C-130J if it is so damn magical? It could be on station all day long over Iraq tomorrow if they’d get the lead out of their asses.