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Variable Message Format (VMF) is an important communications protocol used in communicating tactical military information.

Documented in MIL-STD-6017, a message formatted using VMF can be sent via many communication methods.

The variable message format is a military digital information exchange standard established by the Joint Interoperability of Tactical Command and Control Systems (JINTACCS) program under the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. VMF provides common interoperability standards, including command data elements and protocol standards for information transfer in command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) systems over limited battlefield networks.

Further, VMF enables the real-time exchange of digital tactical information in surveillance systems, command and control (C2) systems, and striking systems in a limited resource-based network-centric operational environment (NCOE) using both wired and wireless military communications.

Authentication algorithms in the form of cryptographic schemes, such as the Secure Hash Algorithm 1 (SHA-1) and the digital signature algorithm (DSA), specified in the current variable message format (VMF) military standard have numerous reliability-related limitations when applied to tactical data link (TDL) and multi-TDL networks (MTN).

This is mainly due to TDL and MTN requiring maximum tactical security, communication integrity, and low network overhead based on many protocol header bits for rapid communication with limited network resources.

The application of such authentication algorithms to TDL and MTN in a rapidly changing battlefield environment without reinforcement measures will lead to functional weaknesses and vulnerabilities when high-level digital-covert activities and deception tactics are implemented.

Consequently, the existing VMF authentication scheme must be improved to secure transmission integrity, lower network transaction, and receive authentication tactical information in VMF-based combat network radio (CNR) networks.

Want to know more about Variable Message Format? Tonex offers Variable Message Format (VMF) Training, a 4-day crash course that covers VMF message standard, VMF data protocol and use cases in tactical radios.

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