The KC-46 will be the first aircraft to be fitted with node equipment in the US Air Force’s new battle management system. The service plans to equip a portion of its Boeing KC-46 aerial refueling tankers with an open-architecture communication subsystem and advanced processing equipment” that will allow between F-35 and F-22 stealth fighters to share data.
The F-35 and F-22 are both manufactured by Lockheed Martin, but they use different data links each with a low probability of intercept: The F-35’s Advanced Multi-Function Data Link and the F-22’s In-Flight Flight Data Link. These links are not compatible and they do not allow combatants to share information while retaining stealthiness. To solve this problem, a number of KC-46s will be outfitted with pods full of communications equipment.