Link 16

Link 16

Link 16 is a military inter-computer data exchange format of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

With Link 16, military aircraft as well as ships and ground forces may exchange their tactical picture in near real time. Link 16 also supports the exchange of text messages, imagery data and provides two channels of digital voice (2.4 kbit/s and/or 16 kbit/s in any combination). Link 16 is defined as one of the digital services of the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) in the "Standardization Agreement" STANAG 5516. MIL-STD-6016C, Change 1, is the latest current version of the Link-16 standard.

It is a TDMA-based secure, jam-resistant high-speed digital data link which operates over-the-air in the L band portion (969–1206 MHz) of the UHF spectrum. By definition, this limits the exchange of information to users within line-of-sight of one another, although recently emerging technologies provide the means to pass Link 16 data over various long-haul protocols such as TCP/IP and UHF SATCOM. It uses the transmission characteristics and protocols, conventions, and fixed-length (or variable length for the VMF) message formats defined by MIL-STD 6016C and STANAG 5516(formerly the JTIDS technical interface design plan). Link 16 is intended to replace or augment many existing (or legacy) Tactical Data Links (TDLs) as the joint standard for data link information exchange. Information is typically passed at one of three data rates: 31.6, 57.6 or 115.2 kilobits per second, although the radios and waveform itself can support throughputs upwards of 238 kbit/s. Link 16 equipment will be located in ground, airborne, and sea-based air defense platforms and selected fighter aircraft.

Link 16 information is coded in so called "J.-series messages", i.e. binary data words with well-defined meanings. These data words are grouped in "functional areas", and allocated to "network participation groups" (virtual nets), most importantly:
* "PPLI", or Precise Participant Location and Identification (network participation groups 5 and 6),
* "Surveillance" (network participation group 7),
* "Command (Mission Management/Weapons Coordination)" (network participation group 8),
* "(Aircraft) Control" (network participation group 9)
* "Electronic Warfare & Coordination" (network participation group 10).

Some examples of platforms currently using the Link 16 capability are:
F/A-18 Hornet, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, Panavia Tornado, U.S. carrier battle groups, E-2C Hawkeye, French, Spanish, Norwegian and German frigates, E-3 Sentry, E-8 Joint STARS, Boeing RC-135 Rivet Joint, MIM-104 Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD), Joint Data Network (JDN), Joint Tactical Ground Station (JTAGS), and Joint Land Attack/Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensors (JLENS). The U.S. Army is also integrating Link 16 into select command and control (C2) elements of its UH-60 Black Hawk fleet, and intends to pursue future fielding to AH-64 Apache and other aviation assets.

The MIDS program is managed by the International Program Office located in San Diego, California. The JTIDS program is managed by the 653rd ELSG at Hanscom AFB near Boston, Massachusetts.

In parallel, the U.S. industry is now developing a new Link-16 SCA compliant radio MIDS-JTRS which currently is projected to implement nine various tactical waveforms, including Link 16.


* [ TADIL J guide]

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