Tag Archives: F-35

First "naval" JSF lands at NAS Patuxent River

During my visit to the USS Nimitz in the Indian Ocean last month, I had the opportunity to see the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in action. The Super Hornet is a 4.5+ generation naval multirole aircraft that was delivered to the US Navy in 1999 to replace the F-14, the S-3 and, in the long term, the F/A-18C and D Hornet.
Even if the “Rhino” (as the aircraft has been dubbed to distinguish it from the “legacy Hornet”) is the most advanced aircraft in the USN inventory, its replacement is already flying and undertaking flight testing: on Nov. 15, the first Lockheed F-35B Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) landed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Md. The test aircraft, known as BF-1, after departing from Lockheed facility in Fort Worth, landed at Pax River after a stop in Dobbins Air Force Base, Ga.
BF-1 is the first of five test F-35B STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) variants to be assigned to the air station. BF-2 is expected to arrive by the end of this year and BF-3 will follow shortly behind that, Lockheed spokesman John Kent said. The air station also will be home to three Navy carrier test variants. Before the aircraft can complete its first vertical landing, it must go through a transition phase. When regular airplanes fly, lift is created from the wing. But for hovering jets such as the F-35B, it is created from the jet itself. The transition phase is expected to include a series of flights, during which the aircraft will practice slowing down and transitioning lift from the wing to the jet — a critical step before an actual STOVL flight. Additional testing will include flying with different weight loads and ordnance payloads, according to a Marine release. “I’m anxious to have our engineers, our test pilots and our operators get their hands on this jet, and then see what we can do to turn test points and sorties at a rapid rate during the coming months,” said Lt. Gen. George J. Trautman, the deputy commandant for aviation, in a release. Eventually the Joint Strike Fighter will replace the F/A-18 Hornet, AV-8B Harrier, and the EA-6B Prowler. Marine Fighter/Attack Training Squadron-501, the first squadron that will train Marine JSF pilots and maintainers, is expected to stand up at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in April 2010 as part of the Joint Integrated Training Center. The first operational squadron will stand up in 2012. Even the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) is expeceted to receive 22 naval JSF that will replace the AV-8B+ Harrier and will operate from the new Italian aircraft carrier Cavour (that can accomodate 8 – 10 F-35B).

An F/A-18F of the VFA-41 and an E of the VFA-14 overflying USS Nimitz (courtesy USS Nimitz)

The BF-1 arrives at Patuxent River (Lockheed)

The BF-1 arrives at Patuxent River (Lockheed)

About the hack into the F-35 Lightning II JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) project

In the last couple of days, I was asked by many friends and colleagues about the recent Wall Street Journal news that top secret details about the Lockheed F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) were stolen by hackers that were able to gain access to the Pentagon network.

According to the reports, Information Leakage dealt with thousands of confidential files that were compromised over the past two years. The data related to the electronics systems and avionics of the JSF. Some sources claimed Terabytes (!) of data were stolen: design and performance statistics of the fighter, as well as the system used by the aircraft to conduct self-diagnostics during flight. The intruders were able to compromise the data by gaining access to the computers of Pentagon contractors in charge of designing and building the aircraft.

These were the facts, more or less reported the same way by many newspaper, agencies and web magazines.

“How was that possible?” is the first thing that came to my mind.

If those files were so sensitive, they had to be protected by applying a series of countermeasures aimed to prevent Integrity, Confidentiality and Availability of information (i.e. data) from being compromised. The three attributes1 are the basis of Information Security. By evaluating the impact that the loss of any of those attributes for a particular type of asset (meaning information at the higher possible level = data, documents, personal computer, hardware, software, oral communication, people, company’s reputation, etc) you can understand which assets require particular countermeasures and which other are less critical and require “loose” security measures.

For example, it is obvious that the file containing the office numbers of all the employees is less important than the file containing the detailed description of the weaknesses of the passive and active countermeasures of the F-22. So, you shouldn’t worry about the security of the group telephone and address book, but you should invest a lot (in terms of security devices, training, policies and procedures of course) to protect the survey about the weaknesses of the F-22 self-protection suite.

The entire process that goes from the evaluation of the Risk (Risk Analysis) to the ways to manage the Risk (Risk Treatment), is named Risk Management. You can’t say an asset is secure or not if you don’t put into relation the value of the asset (under the organisation’s perspective) and its peculiar threats.

Since Risk Management is paramount to address the investments on Information Security, organisations all around the world perform Risk Assessment and consequent Risk Treatment continuously. he Risk Management enables an organisation to manage the Risk’s lifecycle; after applying the countermeasures, an organisation is called to test their effectiveness and to fill the gap between the expected security level and the actual one (in accordance with the Plan Do Check Act or Deming Cycle paradigm).

Let’s get back to the presumed JSF hack.

For sure, someone who was not authorized to, was able to gain access to particular file –> Confidentiality break.

Even if I have no idea how the Pentagon network is protected I’m sure there are plenty of Firewalls, Authentication Servers, Intrusion Prevention Systems, Document Right Management and many other technical and procedural countermeasures to protect the sensitive information. If the stolen files were so critical, it is hard to believe they were so simply available on contractor’s computers.

So, there are three possibilities:

  1.  the data was not secured because it was not deemed to be critical
  2. since the risk can’t be avoided but just reduced (you can’t ever be 100% secure), there were a series of breaches that enabled the information to be leaked despite data was protected in a (most probably) heavily defended network architecture.
  3. Pentagon has no basic idea on how to deal with Information Security

I pick the first, since the second one is simply unlikely (but still possible) and I believe the third is just impossible for a nation where Network-Centric Warfare was pioneered. The second option is also possible but the more the information was critical, the less the possibilities that a security breach could remain undetected for 2 years (enabling leakeage of TB of data…).

1 Let’s quickly explain the meaning of the attributes:
Confidentiality: Assurance that information is shared only among authorised persons. Breaches of Confidentiality can occur when data is disclosed in any way (for example, watching the content of a document, eavesdropping a conference call, accessing private records, and so on).
Integrity: Assurance that the information is authentic and complete. Therefore, this attribute refers to the need to keep the data as it is, without any change. Information must be trusted.
Availability: Assurance that the data is available when needed. Leak of availability occurs if any network failure prevent an authorized user to gain access to a file stored in a Server.


International Fighter 2008

On Nov. 5 and 6, the Istituto di Scienze Militari Aeronautiche (ISMA), Italian Air Force Institute of Military Aeronautical Sciences in Florence, as part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the institute, will host the International Fighter 2008 conference. This event is the only one in Europe dedicated to the analysis of air defence and strike fighter developments around the world and it is specifically tailored for both the Military and Industry representatives. The main themes deals with the Next Generation Fighter Capabilities and Upgrades (how the various nations are equipping aircraft currently in serive to face the new generation threats, how they are going to upgrade aircraft equipments and airframes to enhance air-to-air and strike capabilities, how the 5th generation systems are going to redefine the concept of multi-role aircraft) and the fighter requirements. In particular, this year’s edition of the conference include:

  • Canadian Forces’ Next Generation Fighter Capability
  • Royal Danish Air Force programme and requirements for replacing the in-service F-16 aircraft
  • Romanian Air Force replacement plans for the MiG-21
  • Swiss Armed Force’s New Fighter Aircraft programme designed to replace the F-5E Tiger fleet

Exclusive updates on the following programmes will be provided:

  • Swedish Air Force’s Gripen NG
  • US Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
  • Polish Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon
  • MiG-35 Fighter
  • F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
  • Romania’s MiG-21
  • Italian Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon
  • Royal Air Force’s Eurofighter Typhoon

Other discussed topics are the challenges faced by the USAF bringing the 5th Generation F-22A Raptor into service with the Langley-based 1st Fighter Wing and how the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNlAF) F-16s have been employed as the Air Task Force of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

For more information, you can visit the following website http://www.site-members.com/EventWebsites/11610.002/index.html
or http://www.aeronautica.difesa.it/SitoAM/Default.asp?idsez=3314&idente=458

In volo con il JSF (cockpit demonstrator)

Oggi ho avuto la possibilità di fare un viaggio nel futuro (anche se a breve raggio, diciamo una quindicina d’anni) prendendo parte ad una sessione di orientamento con il JSF cockpit demonstator. 6398.jpgSotto la supervisione di un pilota della Lockheed Martin (di F-16 per la precisione) ho volato virtualmente con l’F-35, un caccia di 5th Generation, estremamente avanzato, che realizza la cosiddetta “sensor fusion” e fornisce al pilota una situational awareness a dir poco sbalorditiva, pur garantendo una buona semplicità di condotta. La prima impressione che ho avuto a bordo del simulatore, per l’occasione ospite del Comando della Squadra Aerea di Centocelle, è stata quella di giocare con un famoso simulatore di volo della Digital Image Design, “Super EF-2000”. SEF2000 è un gioco per PC che uscì nel 1997 e con il quale mi divertii parecchio nel biennio 1998-99. La grafica per quei tempi era eccellente, la complessità degli scenari buona, l’unico neo era rappresentato dall’essere troppo “facile”. Si trattava in buona sostanza di un gioco e non di un simulatore di volo vero e proprio tipo Flight Simulator o Falcon 4.0. sef2000.gifIl modello di volo era realistico ma l’aereo era troppo facile da pilotare anche per un non addetto ai lavori e le informazioni erano in formato “user friendly”, piuttosto difformi da quelle realmente fornite da velivoli di 3^ generazione tipo F-16 o F-18. Ebbene, ho trovato quella stessa semplicità, quella stessa simbologia interpretabile “at a glance” proprio nel JSF. Il velivolo non dispone di un HUD ma ha un solo grande touch screen che può essere configurato a piacimento toccando il display con le dita (tipo palmare). Le informazioni normalmente presentate al pilota nel visore a testa alta sono “proiettate” direttamente nel casco capace, attraverso i sensori del velivolo, di vedere in tutte le direzioni, attraverso qualsiasi superficie. Il pilota ha quindi l’impressione di volare nel vuoto e può tenere ben in vista il velivolo avversario senza essere ostacolato dal pavimento della cabina o dalla coda del proprio aereo. Quindi, durante un ipotetico combattimento in volo il pilota è in grado di seguire il velivolo nemico osservandolo oltre i montanti e le superfici del proprio caccia, come se fosse sospeso nel vuoto. Per il resto, come detto, la simbologia è abbastanza chiara: i triangoli rossi rappresentano gli avversari, i bianchi gli “unknown” e i verdi sono friendly. Il JSF è in grado di condividere tutte le proprie informazioni via rete con gli altri elementi della formazione o con velivoli AWACS e Rivet Joint. L’accesso ai menu avviene tramite un cursore mosso attraverso un piccolissimo joystick posizionato sulla manetta. Insomma tutto abbastanza intuitivo per chi, come me, è abituato a lavorare al computer; un’esperienza abbastanza “shockante” per quei piloti che invece sono abituati agli strumenti analogici stile-F-104. E’ tuttavia abbastanza chiaro che con il JSF si debba pensare non tanto alla condotta del velivolo quanto alla gestione delle informazioni e della missione. Attraverso il DAS, il pilota è in grado di visualizzare tutte le emissioni elettroniche sui 360° del velivolo. Se vuole, può conoscere addirittura le frequenze di ricerca e tracking dei radar di terra.

Particolarmente interessante è stato testare le doti di volo in hovering del velivolo, disponibile anche nella versione STOVL che interessa la Marina italiana e l’Aeronautica. 6536.jpgIl pilota, mediante un apposito switch comanda la transizione dal volo convenzionale a quello stile-Harrier per intenderci. Il velivolo orienta autonomamente le nozzle e riduce la velocità fino a raggiungere la IAS precedentemente impostata attraverso un apposito pulsante della manetta (anch’essa gestita in modalità automatica). Passati in modalità “vertical”, il velivolo è semplicissimo da pilotare, anche in virtù di una telecamera puntata verso il basso che permette di visualizzare il terreno sorvolato e decidere letteralmente dove andare a poggiare le ruote. 5902.jpgMuovendo avanti o indietro la barra di comando si sale o si scende: con un paio di tentativi si riesce anche a mantenere la velocità verticale desiderata. Con la pedaliera si punta il muso dove si vuole e anche un neofita può atterrare senza grossi problemi e con una certa precisione. L’unica difficoltà che ho incontrato è stato distinguere tra tutti gli switch presenti sulla manetta quello che spinto verso l’alto con il mignolo, mi permetteva di selezionare la velocità dell’automanetta. Per il resto il velivolo è un vero e proprio sogno, facile da pilotare e in grado di fornire al pilota tutte le informazioni che desidera, nel layout che preferisce.