For the first time, America’s top-of-the-line F-22 fighters and Britain’s own cutting-edge Typhoon jets have come together for intensive, long-term training in high-tech warfare. If only the planes could talk to each other on equal terms.
The F-22 and the twin-engine, delta-wing Typhoon — Europe’s latest warplane — are stuck with partially incompatible secure communications systems. For all their sophisticated engines, radars and weapons, the American and British pilots are reduced to one-way communication, from the Brits to the Yanks. That is, unless they want to talk via old-fashioned radio, which can be intercepted and triangulated and could betray the planes’ locations. That would undermine the whole purpose of the F-22′s radar-evading stealth design, and could pose a major problem if the Raptor and the Typhoon ever have to go to war together.
The F-22-Typhoon training is a big deal for both air forces. Previous encounters between U.S. Raptors and Typhoons from the U.K. and Germany were brief and, some say, rigged to handicap the arguably more capable F-22, widely considered the best aerial fighter ever. Operation Western Zephyr, as the combined American-British aerial training is known, essentially merges separate flying squadrons from both air arms for unprecedented levels of cooperation.