Jam-resistant Link-16 radios automatically exchange battlefield information – particularly locations of friendly and enemy aircraft, ships and ground forces – among themselves in a long-range, line-of-sight network. For example, air surveillance tracking data from an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft can be instantly shared with fighter aircraft and air defense units. More than a dozen countries have installed Link 16 terminals on over 19 different land, sea, and air platforms, making it an interoperability success story.
While recent advancements may make AESA radars the future transmitters of choice, Link 16 is the current standard. The Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminals (MIDS LVTs) were developed by a multinational consortium to provide Link 16 capability at a lower weight, volume, and cost than the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). This free-to-view DID Spotlight article throws a spotlight on the program, explaining Link 16 and covering associated contracts around the world.
DLS’ MIDS-LVTAs Rockwell Collins notes:
“Link 16 provides real-time, jam-resistant secure transfer of combat data, voice and relative navigation information between widely dispersed battle elements. Participants gain situational awareness by exchanging digital data over a common communication link that is continuously and automatically updated in real time, reducing the chance of fratricide, duplicate assignments or missed targets. Each participant in the communication link is able to electronically see the battle space, including assigned targets or threats. The DLS MIDS LVT represents the latest generation of Link 16 equipment incorporating secure data and voice into a single, small, affordable and highly reliable unit.”
The MIDS program was inaugurated via a Memorandum of Understanding amongst the founding MIDS nations (Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States). It is managed by the U.S. Navy MIDS International Program Office in San Diego, CA, whose responsibilities include management of several versions of MIDS terminals for the US Navy, Air Force, Army and international militaries.
MIDS Low-Volume Terminals (LVTs) are on most U.S. Air Force fighters, bombers and tankers, most U.S. Navy aircraft, ships, and US bases and air defense systems. Other NATO countries have generally been slower and less comprehensive in their implementations, but Link 16 is often installed on fighters, surveillance and patrol aircraft of all types, and air defense systems. Some countries have even taken extra steps, and installed broader network management and transmission systems to extend Link 16’s reach within defined territories.
The MIDS-LVT (1) family is the “airborne terminal,” but it is also used by some ground units. In addition to basic Link 16 functionality:
LVT (1) implements the TACAN Tactical Air Navigation System, and Voice.
LVT (4) provides Voice, but eliminates TACAN.
LVT (6) eliminates Voice, but provides TACAN.
LVT (7) is the bare-bones model, eliminating both TACAN and Voice.
The MIDS LVT (2) family does not implement TACAN, since it’s the “ground terminal,” but it is also used by some airborne units:
The LVT (2) does not implement Voice.
The LVT (11) does implement Voice. Sometimes written LVT-2/11.
LVT-2/11 is specifically designed for U.S. Army Patriot Information Coordination Central (ICC) and Battery Command Posts, Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control Units (FAAD C2) and surface launched missiles, along with U.S. Air Force Air Operations Centers and Joint Interface Control Officer Support Systems. Future upgrades for the terminal are expected to include enhanced throughput, frequency remapping, and improved cryptography.
There is also a MIDS on ship (MOS) implementation, which is a separate type of equipment that performs key Link 16 functions. It serves in the US Navy, and in many allied navies as well.
To learn more about this contract, click here.