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Wireless ad hoc networks can experience significant performance degradation under fading channels. In this work, we present a robust forwarding extension (RFE) for reactive routing protocols in wireless ad hoc networks. RFE is designed to enhance existing reactive routing protocols to provide reliable and energy-efficient packet delivery against the unreliable wireless links. Specifically, we introduce a biased backoff scheme during the route discovery phase to find a robust virtual path, which can provide more cooperative forwarding opportunities. Along this virtual path, data packets are greedily progressed toward the destination through nodes cooperation. We extend the widely used AODV routing protocol with RFE to study its performance. Through extensive simulations, we demonstrate that AODV-RFE effectively improves the reliability, end-to-end energy efficiency and latency.