Revolutionizing warfare: US’s space-based Link 16 to counter China in Indo-Pacific – The Times of India

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NEW DELHI: In a significant technological advancement, the US military has demonstrated the capability to transmit Link 16 tactical data lines from space, a development expected to revolutionize military operations in the Indo-Pacific region. This breakthrough comes as part of efforts to counter China’s formidable Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, designed to keep US forces at bay in the event of a conflict, particularly over Taiwan.
Speaking at Aus Space in Sydney, Brig General Anthony Mastalir, head of space operations for US Indo-Pacific Command, emphasized the strategic importance of this new capability.”We’ve already demonstrated the ability to transmit Link-16 tactical data lines from space and we’re doing those demonstrations with [the Pacific] Fleet in the Indo-Pacific AOR [Area of Responsibility],” he said. “It’s going to be a game changer.”
As per a Breaking Defense report, the Link 16 technology, first announced in late November, extends communication capabilities globally, overcoming the previous line-of-sight limitation of 200 to 300 nautical miles. By integrating this technology into space, the US ensures continuous, near-real-time communication across all military services and with Nato and other allies. This is a critical component of the Joint Fire Network, enabling commanders to share up-to-the-minute intelligence and automate fire control.
China’s rapid advancement in strengthening its A2/AD capabilities since 2019 has been “breathtaking,” according to Mastalir. China’s strategy includes a significant buildup of satellites and long-range, high-speed missiles like the DF-26, intended to prevent US intervention in the South and East China Seas. “China’s kill chain is tailor-made to prevent the United States from intervening and projecting power inside the second island chain,” Mastalir noted.
Despite the challenges, Mastalir expressed confidence in the US’s ability to counter China’s strategy through strong partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. “This is not an easy task,” he acknowledged, “but I can tell you that with the partnerships that we have in the Indo-Pacific AOR, there are going to be opportunities, and we’ll continue to pursue those.”
In addition to enhancing communication capabilities, the US Space Forces Indo-Pacific is expanding its personnel and resources. The organization has doubled in size over the past year and is incorporating civilian billets and contractor positions. Partnerships with various organizations, including Space Systems Command and the Space Development Agency, are also being strengthened.
Looking ahead, the US military is planning to establish a US Space Forces unit in Japan, modeled after the Space Forces Korea unit established in December 2022. This expansion is part of a broader effort to collaborate with allies and partners throughout the Pacific AOR to enhance space capabilities.
“It really is a conversation with each nation in terms of what are your interests? What are your desires? What are your priorities and objectives?” Mastalir explained. The goal is to develop tailored solutions, whether through partnering on investments or establishing sovereign space capabilities.

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