Since its early beginnings in the Vietnam War, Link 16 has been consistently improved and has subsequently developed into the primary military tactical data link for NATO and selected friendly nations.
In recent years with the advent of evolving digitalization, cybersecurity has become an even greater concern in the usage of new Link 16 aspects.
Consequently, the DoD has devoted considerable time and resources shoring up Link 16 against potential cyber-attacks. This includes using jam resistant technology and Cryptographic Variable Logic Labels (CVLL).
In Link 16, both the message and the transmission are encrypted. The message is encrypted by the encryption device for JTIDS (Joint Tactical Information Distribution System) in accordance with a cryptovariable specified for message security or MSEC (message encryption).
Transmission security or TSEC (transmission encryption), is provided by the same cryptovariable or by a second cryptovariable, which controls the specifics of the JTIDS/MIDS (Multifunctional Information Distribution System) waveform. For MIDS, the MSEC and TSEC are provided by a circuit board embedded in the terminal.
Another cybersecurity concern about Link 16 is its expanding usage. The Link 16 tactical data link has connected warfighters since the 1980s. But while the system is still associated with supporting large platforms such as aircraft and ships, it is now increasingly being used on the ground by smaller vehicles and dismounted troops to connect forces together into secure, ad hoc networks capable of supporting a variety of missions.
Cybersecurity safeguards built into Link 16 and similar modern military architectures are critical to the protection of the United States. The ongoing development in technology is important because it helps the U.S. military answer a longstanding operational problem encountered in Joint missions: coordinating air and ground forces for close air support.
Handheld Link 16 terminals, like Viasat’s Battlefield Awareness and Targeting System-Dismounted (BATS-D), were initially developed to solve some of the inherent problems with close air support in a COIN environment, such as the delay between requesting air support and receiving it from aircraft overhead, and avoiding the risk of accidental fratricide that was prevalent in such operations.
Another advantage of using Link 16 for dismounted COIN and conventional military operations is due to the network effect: the system’s architecture allows nodes to automatically connect to and leave the network as they need.
Want to know more? Tonex offers Link 16 Cybersecurity Crash Course, a 4-day course that covers Link 16 TDL operational security and cybersecurity requirements for managing and exchanging Link 16 data.
Learn about security of Link 16 and datalink implementations needs to interoperate STANAG 5602 Standard Interface for Multiple Platform Link Evaluation (SIMPLE) Link 16 standard (Reference 8) protocol. Participants also Learn how to analyze security and cybersecurity at node and message level model for various JTIDS J-messages messaging.
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