Link 16’s Progression to Space

CesiumAstro has won a $5 million contract with the Pentagon’s Space Development Agency (SDA) for an electronically scanned array antenna compatible with Link 16. Though these antennas are for future generations of SDA’s satellites, Link 16 will very soon be utilized in space. Link 16 has served the U.S. military for decades, and will soon further connect ground, air, and maritime forces through the SDA’s “Transport Layer,” a constellation of communications satellites interconnected with optical intersatellite links and designed to provide increased performance communications with ground users around the world. SDA will begin launching its Tranche 0 later this month, with more set to launch in June.

Link 16 doesn’t just have speed (low latency) implications. As the tactical net of choice for many missions, Link 16 can provide secure and hard-to-jam voice, text, and data. “Link 16 is the most proliferated tactical data link that not only the U.S., but all of our allies use,” SDA Director Derek Tournear told the Space Symposium in 2022.

As the Transport Layer evolves and future Tranches are launched, integrated, and eventually taken for granted, the U.S. must ensure it is protecting these satellites from any adversarial behavior or interference. gives an example of an F-22 encountering adversaries in an environment without radio communication, but still with the ability to send warning messages and sensor readings back to the FOB or other nearby aircraft.

While the signal may be resilient, SDA needs to ensure the satellite system itself is resilient. If the adversary can compromise the Transport layer, they could intercept those communications and provide warning messages and targeting data to red forces, map out the blue force battlespace, or provide insights into military mobilization efforts, compromising tactical efforts of the U.S. and allied partners.