New Technologies, IoT And Cyber Threats Are Changing The Way War Is Fought In The Battlefield
Wearables used to monitor activity level and individuals health state. Collaboration softwares used to create virtual conference rooms and messaging tools connecting people through dynamic software-defined wide area networks. Data increasingly moving from on-premise to Cloud hosting environments. Software and applications provisioned on-the-fly and made available through virtualized remote sessions regardless of connecting device’s originating network and OS (Operating System). Drones feeding real-time videos to their remote operators and aircraft engines streaming TB (Terabyte) of data to remote maintenance systems.
Those mentioned above are just a few examples of how technology influences everyday business and personal life. The impact of “pervasive technologies” on today’s society is often referred to as “Digital Transformation,” part of the so-called “Revolution 4.0,” where fusion of technologies is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
Whilst a large mix of digital technologies is making the world fully connected to improve collaboration, learning, information sharing and decision-making, militaries around the world continue to invest in research and development and seek new technologies that can give them an advantage on the battlefield. More or less what their old and new enemies are doing at the same speed, or faster.
Today’s joint operations on the battlefield require reliable information gathered through a wide variety of sensors aboard drones, spyplanes or provided by troops operating in the field around the world to decision makers oceans apart. The digitized information is collected at the tactical edge and delivered via the secure network connections to the data center where it can be “transformed” through analytics and machine learning to generate critical insight. Such insights can be then shared back to the deployed soldiers at the edge in real-time.
Whilst not simple to achieve, the transformation of images and signals to data, data to knowledge, and knowledge to decision, heavily relies on technology and end-to-end secure fabric. A network of networks that APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats) may try to infiltrate by any means including the new devices interconnected at the edge as part of the continued growth of the (IoT) Internet of Things.
For instance, as we have already explained, the F-35 Lightning II leverages IoT capabilities to support Condition-Based Maintenance by proactively identifing maintenance issues and place orders for replacement parts and ground maintenance crew while cruising, so that, when it lands, everything is already in place and ready to be fixed, without affecting the optempo. Moreover, the F-35 is the largest data collection and sharing platform ever produced, or the Number #1 IoT Device that can collect intelligence and battlefield data from several sensors and share it in real-time with other assets as well as commanders.
Moreover, a growing reliance on technology implies new advanced adversaries to face: in fact, the so-called Revolution 4.0 has already completely changed the geopolitical landscape requiring Defense to evolve and include the Cyber domain because even smaller economies, organizations or individuals (backed by some intelligence service or not) can pose a significant threat to larger nations today.
So, Digital Transformation in the Military is today about using mobile devices and remote sensors to collect data at the edge, transfer it to where is needed (including a private cloud), process it to get actionable intelligence, and send the orders back to the soldier deployed abroad in the shortest time possible: a process that requires cutting edge technologies developed by Aerospace, Defense and National Security companies that are today more exposed than ever to the new emerging threats, and increasingly in the need to show their ability to comply with new security standards if they want to continue working on the most advanced (hence targeted) programs.
Attackers have been trying to intrude Government, Aerospace and Defense firms’ networks, often with real cyber weapons, for years. “Software-based” weapons systems, IoT capabilities, Big Data, Cloud Computing and digitization will simply expand the attack surface they can target, making them even more aggressive and dangerous than ever before. Therefore, a Cybersecurity strategy covering the whole technological domain will be the key to address new and existing risks and threats before these can give the enemy an edge both in the cyberspace and in the battlefield. And such strategy will not have to cover cover “defensive” cyber operations only but also “offensive” ones. Companies that have designed and developed “legacy” EW (Electronic Warfare) systems and pods are increasingly working on Cyber EW capabilities too: indeed, EW aircraft are already embedding (or are about to embed) in-flight hacking capabilities to conduct malware attacks by air-gapping closed networks.
U.S. Air Force EC-130H Compass Call aircraft have already been involved in demos where they attacked networks from the air, a kind of mission that is far from new. In 2007, the success of Israeli Air Force’s Operation Orchard against a Syrian nuclear installation was largely attributed to effectiveness of the Israeli Electronic Warfare platforms that supported the air strike and made the Syrian radars blind: some sources believe that Operation Orchard saw the baptism of fire of the Suter airborne network system against Syrian radar systems. Although the details surrounding this capability are a bit fuzzy, the F-35 AESA radar could be able to do the same thing
Top image credit: U.S. Army