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STM LINK 16 INTEROPERABILITY PROJECT

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With the deployment of Link 16, Turkish Armed Forces is acquiring a great improvement in terms of tactical information exchange. Link 16 is the most sophisticated tactical data link that is actively employed in the battlefield today. It is widely used in the world, by both NATO and non NATO nations, and by various services. Link 16 facilitates improved situational awareness through a real time tactical picture; which includes periodic self-reports of the net participants, tracks from all C2 units with the best quality of detection in the network, targets derived from passive sensors, reference points, lines and areas. In addition, it offers real time mission management and weapon control replacing voice communications for these functions. Through its technical characteristics, it provides secure voice channels and ECM-resistant communication. However, all these advantages are available only with interoperabable platform implementations. As rephrased many times in the TDL world, without interoperability Link 16 is less than helpful.
In order for a platform to acquire Link 16 capability, the integration of the MIDS terminal is not enough. Besides, a platform-specific data link processor (DLP) should be developed and correctly integrated to the system with an appropriate human machine interface (HMI). There are a plenty of information types that can be shared via Link 16 through tens of messages with a number of different usages for each message. Some data takes place in more than one message. The implementation of even a single message use in the platform DLP is very expensive. Therefore, in order to eliminate redundant costs, platform users choose from this vast set of messages the ones that meet their information exchange requirements. However, this chosen set needs to be compatible with the sets chosen by other units. Compatibility between not only the message sets but also the implementations of those sets is crucial. The data should be processed using correct algorithms in appropriate time, and be monitored accurately and clearly. Non-interoperabable platform Link 16 implementations cause the conveyed information to be erroneous, incomplete, or irrelevant. In this case, the operational advantages provided by Link 16 cannot be used. In addition, there lies the risk that these advantages turn into disadvantages through misunderstandings between operators, which may even end up with the loss of friendly forces.
In order to detect and prevent possible interoperability issues to take measures, Link 16 Interoperability Contract is signed on February 20, 2009 between the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) and STM Savunma Teknolojileri Mühendislik ve Ticaret A.?. In the project, the national and platform-specific employment of Link 16 and platform Link 16 DLP requirements are defined using a systems engineering method, which is adapted from the “interoperable Systems Management And Requirements Transformation, iSMART” process. iSMART methodology is used by more than 10 countries including USA, UK, Germany, and Switzerland in the world for interoperability assurance. STM has developed its own systems engineering procedures derived from the iSMART process for Tactical Data Link requirements management.
Within the project, STM personnel have worked with the users of all the platforms that will gain Link 16 capability. In two years through several workshops, the TAF and STM personnel together decided how to use Link 16 and which information to exchange on Link 16 on both national and platform base. More than 125,000 information exchange requirements are captured and analyzed in this process. At the end of the analyses, 65% mismatched requirement has been solved and rendered interoperabable. This early action prevented probable IO issues and related serious costs.
Not only the information exchange requirements but also the concepts of use, maintenance, test, training, acquisition and modernization needs are addressed in the project. Taking the NATO Link 16 Standard as basis, national Link 16 standard is identified in detail. In this national Link 16 standard, the message set, transmit/receive rules and related transactions that can be used in Turkish Link 16 capable platforms are defined in detail. In addition, a difference document is created to keep track of the deviations and commonalities with the international standard. The national Link 16 standard defines the full set of capabilities that will be used by Turkish platforms without giving any platform-specific rules. Therefore, platform specific Link 16 standards are derived from this document to identify the message set and processing rules corresponding to the capabilities and operational roles of the platform. Using these platform specific Link 16 standards, system implementation documents consisting of the message set to be used by the platform in bit level are produced. Thus, bit level interoperability between different platforms is assured. Platform specific Link 16 HMI requirements are also defined in the project. These are not the whole but the basic requirements for Link 16 functions. The platform HMI’s should be designed according to both these basic requirements arising from Link 16 processing rules and the requirements derived from platform users’ needs.
The technical expertise constituted within the project is put into service of the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries (SSM) and the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) through technical consultancy and training programs. Up to now, 256 hours of training is delivered to about a hundred of TAF personnel. Many Link 16 related projects are given technical support. In addition, STM is the only organization that has the Link 16 network design capability and know-how in Turkey. A number of national Link 16 network designs are produced and validated in all levels by the Link 16 Interoperability Project personnel.
STM, with the Link 16 Interoperability Project, is taking serious steps in the aim of becoming a centre of excellence for Tactical Data Links.

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