Abstract Design of robust network topology is an essential issue in large-scale multi-hop wireless networks since data packets are forwarded through intermediate nodes between source and destination, especially in the presence of non-cooperative nodes. Traditionally, topology design aims at generating network topology with high node degree, maximum throughput, and mitigation of malicious attacks. In this paper, we formulate a novel topology control problem as achieving optimal topology which maximizes network robustness against data forwarding distortion (DFD) in which a relay node may be compliant in route discovery, but drop or delay packets as non-cooperative nodes. Such node misbehavior can degrade network performance dramatically, without being detected by routing protocols and countermeasures. Therefore, we propose to design a network topology and data forwarding algorithms, namely PROACtive, in order to distribute data packets among cooperative nodes only, subject to k-connectivity constraint. Through analysis and simulations, we show that there exists a trade-off between achieving network robustness and k-connected with high probability (w.h.p.). By using distributed measurement schemes, data packets can be forwarded with low message complexity Θ( N), and improves network goodput significantly in different network scenarios.