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Significance of Link 16 for Air Defence Superiority

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The situational awareness of any air attack and defence relies on the crucial data communications and its networking. On this aspect the integration of Link 16 offers air superiority for the military forces. Read on to know more about it…

Most of the modern military have rightly understood that the rapid transfer of information across the battlefield can give military forces a decided edge against its opponents. Over the years, the different services have adopted a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft with increasingly advanced communications gear and data-links, but have not always upgraded older types, creating a complex web of different systems that often can’t “talk” to each other directly.

In any Air Force Special Operations Command, the special tactics airmen assigned to the command include Combat Controllers, Joint Tactical Air Controllers, and others, who variously coordinate air strikes and air drops, manage airfield operations and communications at austere locations, and often assist with mission planning, among various other specialized duties. It’s no surprise special tactics personnel have to have a good working understanding of the communications and data sharing capabilities of various aircraft. Prominently at the top of the game are depictions of what aircraft have the common data link known as Link 16.

About Link 16
First of all, the ink 16 is used by western platforms which is a set of rules and not specs, hardware or software. Link 16 refers to airborne information-distribution data links that enable combat aircraft to share sensor information in a common tactical picture.

The Link 16 is a U.S. and NATO military tactical data exchange network for aircraft, ships, ground forces, and smart munitions. In addition to creating a common tactical picture, Link 16 enables military forces working together to share text messages, imagery, and digital voice communications.

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.

Aircrafts Using Link 16
Aircraft that use Link 16 include the F-15, F-16, Eurofighter, F/A-18, and Mirage 2000 jet fighters. One problem with Link 16, however, is its RF signature, which the enemy can use to detect and track Link 16-equipped aircraft. The other challenge that is evident today is that Link-16, is not compatible with all types of military aircraft.

In the US military, aircrafts that use Link 16 which are of foreign types, are Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, which American special operations airmen might come into contact with during coalition operations. Currently, the US Defense is planning to add Link 16 capability to more than a dozen in-service types, such as the Marine Corps AH-1Z gunship helicopters and MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotors and the entire U.S. Army special operations helicopter fleet.

Concluding Words
One can say that one of the key factor of combat effectiveness of the US built F-16 platform is the use of Link 16. In simple words, the Link-16 data system is a small, set of boxes, but it is this which has ensured that the F-16 has been able to shoot down every fighter jets of enemy countries. The Link 16 system increases the situational awareness of the pilot and has been key to the supremacy of western electronics, which have decisively trumped an eastern focus on kinetics. In short, the Link-16 is the real war winner.

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