Link 16 is a standardized tactical communications system used by U.S. DoD, NATO, and Coalition forces for transmitting and exchanging real-time tactical data and critical information using Line-of-Sight (LoS) L-band wireless/RF links between allied military network participants (NPG or Network Participation Group).
Also known as TADIL J., Link 16 is now viewed as the standard by which other systems are measured for secure, airborne situational awareness. Link 16 has been credited by the U.S. Air Force as a key factor for saving lives in multiple theaters due to the increased situational awareness the system provides.
Link 16 Training Programs and Related TDL Course Offering by Tonex
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.
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.
Link 16 capabilities are considerable, such as:
- Allows for real-time transfer of combat data, voice communications, imagery, and relative navigation information between dispersed battle elements
- Facilitates the exchange of data over a common communication link, allowing participants to obtain and share situational awareness information
- Facilitates the exchange of sensor information, enabling command and control centers to create COPs
- Enables information dissemination from command and control centers and warfighters, as well as information exchanges between warfighters
The primary purpose of Link 16 is as an air and missile defense command and control system. It is typically employed for national air defense, linking numerous air defense assets with sea- and land-based platforms such as Aegis-equipped vessels, ground-based sensors and surface-to-air missile systems. Once interconnected via Link 16, these various systems are capable of establishing a COP within the national airspace, allowing commanders to identify threats and deal with them accordingly.
The system is also used by U.S. combatant commands for air and missile defense missions. The U.S. Navy is a heavy user of Link 16 for air and missile defense, equipping its aircraft and Aegis-equipped guided-missile vessels with the command and control system. The U.S. Army also uses Link 16 for air and missile defense, integrating command and control centers as well as ground platforms like Patriot and THAAD into the Link 16 network.
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.
Over the past few years, the U.S. military has expressed strong interest in expanding Link 16 capabilities even further 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.
For more information, questions, comments, contact us.