Link 16 is a Tactical Data Link (TDL) developed by ViaSat Inc. and Data Link Solutions (DLS) LLC that networks communication between land, sea, and air forces to support joint operations and improve interoperability.
Link 16 has become an invaluable tool for U.S. and NATO military operations as it allows for real-time transfer of combat data, voice communications, imagery, and relative navigation information between dispersed battle elements. Link 16 accomplishes this through the use of data encryption and frequency hopping to maintain secure communications.
The system facilitates the exchange of data over a common communication link, allowing participants to obtain and share situational awareness information and interoperate within the battlespace. Link 16 also facilitates the exchange of sensor information, enabling command and control centers—either centralized or distributed—to create Common Operating Pictures (COP).
Interoperability provided by Link 16 allows each participant in the communication link to electronically observe the battlespace, identify threats and acquire targets.
Link 16 information is commonly broadcast through radio frequency bearers, but it can also distribute information via landlines, satellites and serial links. It is a sophisticated radio designed to broadcast omni-directionally, providing maximum interoperability for dispersed and/or fast-moving participants.
Situation awareness is extremely critical in the chaos of battle. Link 16 provides this as real-time messages are sent and broadcast simultaneously to as many users as needed.
What sets Link 16 apart from other tactical data links is that it does not depend on any one terminal to act as a node for the Link 16 network. Instead, all Link 16-capable terminals act as nodes, allowing various military forces to operate while distributed.
Consequently, Link 16’s unique data link architecture allows troops to conduct operations with flexibility in unpredictable battlespace environments and is critical for force interoperability against future threats.
The main application of Link 16 is as an air and missile defense command and control system. This network is being used by various countries for national air defense, linking their sea- and land-based vessels, ground-based sensors and surface-to-air missile systems. This helps them to protect their airspace by identifying threats and neutralizing them.
Over the past few years, the U.S. military has expressed strong interest in expanding Link 16 capabilities to maintain the tactical advantage needed to succeed across today’s data-driven, contested battlespace. One solution is Concurrent Multiple Reception (CMR) in which a radio can demodulate and decrypt multiple messages from multiple users simultaneously.
One example is with positional data, where CMR enables more frequent, secure updates on the location of friendly and enemy forces. The data from multiple messages received simultaneously is fused into a common picture. Essentially, the picture seen on tactical situational awareness displays would be more robust.
Multi-message capability also allows CMR devices to share data between specific users while still receiving information from the broader network, all in a single timeslot. This is expected to increase the overall network efficiency and capacity because multiple networks can operate in the same theater of operation.
Seeing the necessity to enhance communications capabilities, the U.S. military recently identified CMR as an emerging need for Link 16 products.
And now Link 16 applications are moving into space. The Link 16-capable LEO spacecraft is intended to further enhance situational awareness for warfighters by using a constellation of satellites to provide greater access to Link 16 capabilities in contested or congested environments and extend the range of the networks.
Link 16 Introduction – Live Online
Introduction to Link 16 is a series of Live Online Link 16 training modules covering the key concepts of Link 16, a military tactical data link (TDL) network used by DoD, NATO and nations allowed by the MIDS International Program Office (IPO).
- What is TDL?
- Tactical Data Links (TDLs)
- Is Link 16 secure?
- Can link 16 be jammed?
- What is link 11?
- What are J series messages?
- Who uses link 16?
- What are differences between link 16 and link 22?
- What is JREAP?
- Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS)
- Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS)
- Link 16 and Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS)
- What is TTNT (Tactical Targeting Networking Technology)?
- Link 16 vs. TTNT
- What is MADL?
- What is SADL?
- Introduction JTIDS/MIDS Link 16
- Joint Range Extension Applications Protocol
- Identification Friend or Foe (IFF)
- Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR)
- Link 16 Network Design and Management
- Link 16 Network Planning
- JTIDS / MIDS Architecture
- Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA)
- Link 16 Time Slots
- Recurrence Rate
- Link Time Slot Allocation and Structure
- JTIDS / MIDS Frequencies & Waveform
- Link 16 Messages
- J Series
- Message Packing
- Message Structure & Numbering
- Access Modes
- Nets and Networks
- Network Participation Groups (NPGs)
- Link 16 Encryption
- Link 16 Communications Modes
- Error Correction and Cyclic Code Shift Keying (CCSK)
- Continuous Phase Shift Modulation
- Types of Relay in Link 16
- JTIDS / MIDS Hardware
- Class 1 Terminals
- Class 2 Terminals
- MIDS Low Volume Terminal (LVT)
- Fighter Data Link (FDL)
- ANC / URC-138
- Joint Tactical Radio System
- Future Terminal Enhancements
- Relative Navigation (RelNav)
- Geodetic and Relative Grid
- JTIDS / MIDS Synchronization
- External Time Reference Network (ETRN)
- System Time Reference Network (STRN)
- Time Quality
- Joining a Network
- Active and Passive Synchronization
- JTIDS / MIDS Interoperability
- JTIDS / MIDS Surveillance Data Exchange and Track Management
- Link 16 and Weapons Management
- Network Enabled Weapons (NEW)
- Weapons Coordination and Management
- Link 16 Frequency Clearance Agreements (FCA)
- Link 16 Time Slot Duty Factor (TDSF)
- Interference Protection Feature
- Link 16 Network Design
- Network Management, Planning and Design
- Pre-Mission Planning
- Initialization and Operations
- Operational Network Management
- Data Recording and Analysis