Will Robertson

Wireshark dissector for Link 16

Wireshark dissector for Link 16

November 2009

DSTO logo


As part of my degree I was required to complete 12 weeks of work placement in the industry. I was fortunate enough to be granted a scholarship position at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) to develop a Wireshark "dissector" capable of decoding Link 16.

Link 16 is a United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) tactical data link standard that defines the message format, methods of radio transmission, and network management procedures. It was being used heavily during joint simluated operations between the USA and Australia, however the DSTO team had run into some technical problems during these operations and wanted a method for diagnosing the cause of these issues.

By creating a Wireshark dissector network communication during the exercises could be monitored and more intelligently analysed.


Wireshark example

Over the course of the 12 week internship, the creation of the dissector capable of interpreting various Link 16 messages was completed.

The dissector was used internally at DSTO for some time before being approved for public release in 2014. After this approval the code was updated by Peter Ross, and contributed back to the Wireshark project in May.

For more details on the background, implementation, testing and example output, please refer to the Technical Note PDF below.


After the successful implementation of the dissector, I was asked to present my work at the SimTect conference in Brisbane in June 2010.
DSTO kindly provided my flights and accomodation in exchange for the presentation. At 11AM on the 2nd of June I gave my presentation to a small audience and was greatly relieved when it was over :)

Technical Note

The culmination of this work was the production of a Technical Note, to be published in the internal DSTO library. This document was prepared with the assistance of my supervisor, Peter Ross.

A copy is freely available from the online publication library at DSTO, or a copy can be obtained directly here (PDF!) in case the DSTO website is not working (which it was not at the time of writing).

Copyright © Will Robertson 2012 - 2024