Link 16 for Saudi E-3 AWACS
Link 16 is a secure, jam-resistant, digital data link transmitted via radio that allows military aircraft, ships and ground units to exchange their tactical pictures with each other in near real time. Link 16 also supports the exchange of text messages and imagery data and provides additional channels for digital voice. Work is underway to improve its bandwidth, and the system itself can be installed in a number of ways on aircraft, ships, even land installations like air-defense missile systems.
This capability helps all participating nodes see more clearly within the fog of war, since a target seen by one platform is soon seen by all. In can also help cut down on accidental ‘fratricide’ accidents in which one’s own side is targeted. Saudi Arabia chose to buy Link 16 capabilities back in 2006, and they are now in the process of integrating it into the E-3 Sentry AWACS(Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft that monitor Saudi airspace.
Sept 20/07: Boeing announces a $49.2 million contract, including options, to install Link 16 systems aboard Saudi Arabia’s fleet of 5 AWACS(Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft. Installation and checkout of Link 16 on the first Saudi AWACS aircraft is scheduled to begin in December at Boeing facilities in Seattle, Wash., immediately followed by an interoperability demonstration with a Link 16-modified F-15 fighter. Alsalam Aircraft Co. will upgrade the remaining 4 aircraft in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The fleet upgrade is scheduled to be completed in December 2009.
Boeing’s Saudi AWACS programs manager Mark Mills said that:
“This secure data and voice link allows direct communication between AWACS and forward positioned fighter aircraft. The Link 16 AWACS upgrade is the first in a series of anticipated upgrades to the Saudi AWACS fleet.”
Nov 13/06: Data Link Solutions announces a $16 million contract from the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center to provide Link 16 capability to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The contract marks Saudi Arabia’s first adoption of Link 16 capability and will include deliveries of the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) to be incorporated on Saudi E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft that entered service in 1986-87.
Note that JTIDS is the larger first-generation predecessor to modern MIDS-LVT “black box” terminals. Work will be performed in Wayne, NJ and Cedar Rapids, IA.