While Link 16 is a crucial communications medium for ground and sea personnel in the chaos of battle, it is particularly vital for air defense.
Aircraft that use Link 16 include the F-15, F-16, Eurofighter, F/A-18 and Mirage 2000 jet fighters.
Situational awareness of any air attack and defense relies on crucial data communications and its networking. Because of increased situational awareness for pilots, the Link 16 system has a proven record of superiority. In other words, western electronics is trumping the eastern focus on kinetics.
The biggest problem has been an incompatibility issue with some types of military aircraft. However, due to Link 16’s exemplary history in battlespace, the U.S. Defense is in the process of adding Link 16 capability to more than a dozen in-service aircraft types, such as Marine Corp AH-1Z, gunship helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotos as well as the entire fleet of U.S. Army Special Operations helicopters.
Link 16 is a Tactical Data Link (TDL) communications network that supports joint operations and improves interoperability among coalition forces operating within a single battlespace.
Besides situational awareness, Link 16 is also known for its anti-jamming technology that prevents the enemy from eavesdropping. In the Link 16 TDL this is accomplished through “frequency hopping,” a method used to rapidly switch transmitting radio signals among several frequency channels.
Frequency hopping is a radio transmission technique also known as spread-spectrum technique, which refers to any method that widens the frequency band of a signal. Normally, radio stations broadcast on a single carrier frequency, which makes eavesdropping deliberately easy: You tune your radio to the correct frequency and receive the programming.
By contrast, frequency hopping prevents the interception and decipherment of a transmission by shifting the carrier frequency in a predetermined, usually pseudorandom manner — in other words, in a way that appears random but is produced by a deterministic algorithm.
A receiver hopping around in synchrony with the transmitter can pick up the message, but an eavesdropper tuned to a single frequency will hear only a blip as that bit of message flashes by. If the frequencies are spaced widely enough, any jamming signal will interfere with only a small part of the message.
Link 16, operates in the radio frequency band 960–1,215 MHz and is reserved on a worldwide basis by the ITU Radio Regulations.
The frequency hopping occurs over 51 frequencies (also called bins). Other characteristics:
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