For the first time ever, Raytheon’s Ship Self Defense System established a digital air connection between a sea-based ship and an airborne F-35B aircraft.

Raytheon say that the demonstrations prove the system’s ability to share digital tactical data from an F-35B across a deployed Expeditionary Strike Group.

This capability, also referred to as Link 16 Digital Air Control, or DAC, provides tactical, wireless integration between surface ships and aircraft, enhancing mission effectiveness through expanded situational awareness and interoperability. Shared data between surface ships and aircraft can include:

  • detected targets
  • mission assignment and engagement status exchange (without voice communication)
  • aircraft status information, such as fuel levels or weapons inventory

“Information is key for any Commander – and shared information from multiple sources and vantage points extends our battlespace and our advantage over enemy threats” said U.S. Navy Captain Danny Busch, Program Executive Office – Ship Self Defense System.

“Now with the ability to link our sensors and weapons, from sea and air, SSDS is providing a level of interoperability and defensive capability never before available to the Expeditionary fleet.”

Working together with the US Navy, Raytheon modified the current SSDS baseline (MK 2) to establish the DAC interface.

The company say that in just under 18 months, the capability was developed, tested and delivered to the USS WASP – and successfully demonstrated. Now proven, other SSDS MK 2-equipped ships will be upgraded to include the Link 16 DAC capability.

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Paul Bestwick

Are there plans to test the equivalent UK systems with Link 16, and if so when are these expected to take place?


Is this the first ship link or just the first time an SSDS ship has linked with an F-35? Since I was under the impression AEGIS could already do this.

Patrick C

I’m a little confused as well. The F-35 is already connected to AEGIS via the Cooperative Engagement Capability system. It tracked a ballistic missile and relayed the information to an SM-6 on board an AEGIS destroyer which destroyed the target (outside the range of the AEGIS’ own radars because of the horizon). Maybe this shares more data with more ships, like the amphibious ships or carriers which don’t have AEGIS.


Yes, that’s my impression as well. It’s less relevant for Nimitz carrier groups that always have Aegis escorts, but the Wasp will sometimes deploy as part of an ARG, which does not have an Aegis escort. It’ll be important for them to be able to access that information.

For QE carrier groups, the Type 45 doesn’t include CEC unfortunately. I wonder if this may be why the Netherlands will be including a ship for deployments, though i’m unsure if the De Zeven can do so. It can certainly link up with US Aegis vessels.


How do the air assets ‘talk’ to the british ships currently?

There must be some digital link, or why bother with crowsnest. The ability for the air assets with their higher altitude to communicate back to the ships with the missiles, seems rather essential.

Steve Taylor

The USN doesn’t really have anything but AEGIS escorts now really.

Patrick C

You’re right. I looked up the “SSDS MK 2” mentioned and it seems to be a system installed on carriers and amphibs (which is where the commander of the group would be). Since carriers/amphibs don’t have AEGIS it looks like this was needed for the F-35 to send information to those ships.

Paul Casimir

The key to understanding this article is that it refers to Expeditionary Strike Groups. The US Navy has nine Expeditionary Strike Groups all centered around an amphibious assault ship, eg., USS Wasp. There may or may not be an AEGIS equipped destroyer deployed with the Task Group.


I think ssds is pretty much everything but Aegis. Including the small surface combatant. That is if it ever gets out of port.


Most UK vessels have partial if not full Link 16 capability.
AAW units and Capital units have the full bells and whistles outfit .
Link 16 is basically an air warfare centric system whilst Link 11 and its sucessor Link 22 are more maritime centric.


My guess is that equivalent would be an RN F-35B and/or Crowsnest passing on target info to a CAMM system on a Type 23/26/31 via the CAMM data link or to the ships CMS via link 16 and then to CAMM.

I do not know if this is being planned or implemented but if it were, it would make the extended range CAMM much more potent as OTH targets could be engaged.