Sponsored by Spectra Group
28 Jun 21. British Army embraces SlingShot. Add-on kit turns UHF/VHF radio into a BLoS solution to support voice and data communications.
Once the preserve of SOF within NATO, the SlingShot appliqué kit is now being proliferated throughout conventional forces with one of the latest customers being the British Army. The SlingShot solution, which immediately turns a UHF/VHF radio into a BLoS solution, is already being employed by the British Army to support secure voice and data communications. Plugged into legacy Bowman radio sets, SlingShot links up to the Inmarsat I-4 satellite constellation to enable tactical satellite communications in L-Band up to 1,000km+ across an area of operation.
End users are also able to continue operating the same radio set in its original UHF/VHF configuration as and when necessary, thereby negating the requirement to carry an additional radio and reducing physical and cognitive burdens, a spokesperson for manufacturer Spectra Group confirmed to Shephard.
Uptake by the British Army was officially confirmed on 25 March with Maj Gen Jonathan Cole, Director of Information and CIO of the British Army, describing SlingShot as ‘a fantastic addition to our communications inventory, delivering vital capability to deployed troops’.
He added: ‘Of particular note is the fact that the training burden is minimal as the system is effectively a ‘bolt-on’ to our current Bowman radios.
‘SlingShot is a game-changer in allowing our troops to operate at reach without the additional requirement to deploy more troops to provide rebroadcast capability when operating at Battle Group level and below.’
In addition to BLoS voice, SlingShot is also capable of supporting high data throughput associated with situation awareness software, GPS tracking, reporting and other data messaging, without requiring ground-based, LoS rebroadcasting infrastructure.
In the case of the British Army, voice and data communications are encrypted with Bowman’s own crypto software.
Equipped with an omnidirectional antenna, the SlingShot modem weighs up to 605g and has been designed to be integrated with tactical radios on land, at sea and in the air, providing end-users with real-time communications on the move as opposed to communications on the pause typically experienced with traditional SATCOM solutions.
Simon Davies, CEO of Spectra Group, said: ‘The beauty of SlingShot is that it can be plugged into any in-service tactical radio system. The UK have led the way with this kind of approach to the integration of SlingShot but we’re now seeing other global forces, including the USA, adopt a similar strategy to meet every Beyond Line Of Sight communications scenario.’ (Source: News Now/Shephard)
02 Jul 21. Robins looks to bring home the BACN under new Air Force proposal. The Air Force enraged Georgia lawmakers in 2018 when it asked to start retiring the state’s E-8C Joint STARS ground target-tracking jets without a ready replacement. Now, the service is extending an olive branch: offering a fleet of E-11A airborne communication planes to Robins Air Force Base if Congress lets it send four JSTARS aircraft to the boneyard.
“As the Air Force looks to the future, we expect to be challenged around the world by China and Russia,” said acting Air Force Secretary John Roth in a news release Wednesday. “Those threats require new solutions, which means divesting legacy platforms like the JSTARS.”
Under the new proposal, Robins would get a squadron of E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — Bombardier business jets that are heavily modified with radios and other systems that let aircraft communicate with each other in flight during military missions.
E-11s are flown overseas by the 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron alone. The Air Force already owns three BACN jets and plans to buy six more, including two in fiscal 2022.
“Nine E-11 BACN aircraft and a squadron of approximately 290 active-duty personnel will execute a mission with a very high [operational] tempo, enabling communications support to the joint force on the modern battlefield,” the Air Force said.
It could be a boon for both Robins and Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. The service said airmen at Robins would offer command-and-control support for the E-11A mission as a detachment to the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at Grand Forks, which flies the RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drone.
“Bringing the E-11 under the jurisdiction of the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at the Grand Forks Air Force Base is an acknowledgment of the incredible leadership at the base, a recognition of how critical the base is to the nation’s defense, and a reminder of how the base is responsible for much more than what can be physically seen there,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota, said Wednesday. “Today’s announcement will also help solidify the base’s long-term success and stability in Grand Forks.”
A press release from Cramer’s office said the BACN mission will stand up next year, pending language in the fiscal 2022 defense policy bill that the senator “will help craft as a member of [the Senate Armed Services Committee.”
For the BACN plan to move forward, that legislation also needs to green-light retirement of four of the 16 JSTARS jets. Congress has told the military that if it wants to ditch the E-8C, it needs to make substantial progress toward a replacement network of aircraft, sensors, weapons and data analytics systems known as the Advanced Battle Management System.
The Air Force said in May that BACN would be one of four new missions at Robins, home of the JSTARS enterprise in the active-duty 461st Air Control Wing and the Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing.
Other future missions may include classified support to ABMS starting in 2023, an active-duty electromagnetic spectrum warfare group that could arrive in 2024, and a command-and-control squadron that would handle daily operations in the Middle East beginning in 2022.
The Air Force has suggested all active-duty airmen and Guardsmen at Robins would staff those new missions. The base employs nearly 24,000 military personnel, civilians and contractors.
“I am committed to working with the Air Force to bring [the four new missions] to fruition, to ensuring the continuity of an operational flying mission at the base, to ensuring a complete role for both active and Guard personnel, and to making Robins the hub of the Air Force’s future communication structure that will answer the call of today’s threat environment,” Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, said in a joint statement with other state lawmakers and military officials in June. (Source: Defense News)
30 Jun 21. US Navy’s NGJ-MB programme secures Milestone C approval. The Milestone C approval is a critical next step that allows NGJ-MB to enter production and deployment phase. The US Navy’s Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band (NGJ-MB) programme has secured Milestone C approval from the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.
This approval enables NGJ-MB to enter the production and deployment phase and go ahead with low-rate initial production.
An external jamming pod, the NGJ-MB system will help to address both advanced and emerging threats by leveraging the latest digital, software-based, and Active Electronically Scanned Array technologies.
It will also have enhanced AEA (advanced electronic attack) capabilities that can disrupt, reject, and even degrade enemy air defence and ground communication systems.
Program executive officer for tactical aircraft programmes Rear Admiral Shane Gahagan said: “This capability is a game changer for our warfighters and the Airborne Electronic Attack community.
“Milestone C is the critical next step in ensuring that our team will be able to deliver a high-performing, state-of-the-art capability to the fleet.”
AEA Systems (PMA-234) programme manager Captain Michael Orr said: “Reaching Milestone C and entering the production phase validates the thousands of test hours and planning that our combined US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force team has contributed to this evolutionary capability, and I couldn’t be prouder.”
NGJ-MB is considered to be a part of a larger NGJ system that will enhance and then eventually replace the legacy ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System, which is being presently deployed on the EA-18G Growler.
NGJ-MB has finished over 145 hours of developmental flight testing on the Growler. It also has more than 3,100 hours of chamber and lab testing.
For the development, production, and sustainment of NGJ-MB, the US and Australia share a cooperative agreement.
The programme office has the responsibility to acquire, deliver and sustain AEA systems as well as equip combatant commanders with capabilities for mission success.
In October 2019, NGJ-MB completed the first power generation flight test at Niagara Falls Airport in New York, the US.
In August 2020, NGJ-MB, built by Raytheon Intelligence and Space, completed its first flight test on the EA-18G Growler aircraft. (Source: naval-technology.com)
29 Jun 21. US Navy’s powerful aerial jamming pod moves to next phase. The Navy has approved the low-rate rate initial production for the first iteration of its new, powerful airborne jamming pod.
In a June 29 announcement, contractor Raytheon Technologies said it completed what’s known as Milestone C for the Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band. Milestone C, in Pentagon parlance, is the decision that leads to procurement with low-rate initial production and deployment.
The jammer is the Navy’s premier aerial electronic attack platform that will replace the ALQ-99 jamming pod and be mounted aboard EA-18 Growler aircraft. It is broken into three pods covering three portions of the electromagnetic spectrum: mid, low and high.
Raytheon was awarded the mid-band pod in 2016. L3Harris Technologies was awarded the low-band pod in December.
The Milestone C designation was initially planned for March 2021, but that slipped. It was rescheduled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Procurement funding for the mid-band pod dipped slightly in the most recent budget request to balance higher Navy war-fighting priorities, a Navy spokesperson told C4ISRNET.
“We need to work with the resources we have now to invest deliberately in the future Navy, so that we can continue to support current and future national defense priorities,” the spokesperson said. “The Navy’s FY22 request reflects the priorities as detailed in the U.S. strategic guidance and the National Defense Strategy.”
While noting that all funding outside the budget year should be viewed as pre-decisional, in last year’s budget the Navy projected it would spend $311.5m in procurement for the mid-band pod, while the fiscal 2022 budget requested $266.6m. The Navy requested $243.9m in its FY22 request for research and development on the mid-band pod and $248m for the low-band version. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
30 Jun 21. Elettronica and Rohde & Schwarz cooperate for German RCESM/RECM systems. Elettronica (ELT) and Rohde & Schwarz RCESM/RECM technology solution brings high reliability and strong situational awareness to the fore. Both companies have signed a cooperation agreement for the conception and delivery of radar and communication electronic support measures (RCESM)/radar electronic countermeasures (RECM) in Germany, with a focus on German naval programs. ELT and Rohde & Schwarz will continue their significant R&D spending in this area to offer customers the most modern and reliable technology in the future. Under the cooperation agreement, both companies have agreed to seek complementing contributions based on their existing solutions within their portfolios.
“We are delighted to strengthen our cooperation with ELT,” explains Bosco Novak, Executive Vice President, Technology Systems, Rohde & Schwarz. “We expect that this cooperation will bring additional benefits to our customers.”
“ELT and Rohde & Schwarz have already successfully co-operated in the past and are now taking the next logical step by joining forces to take full advantage of our joint capacities,” says Domitilla Benigni CEO/COO, Elettronica Group. We strongly believe in this collaboration between two companies that are an expression of European technological excellence. Collaborating makes us more competitive and improves our respective engineering skills.”
Elettronica for the last 70 years have supplied the Armed Forces and Governments strategic surveillance capabilities, self-defense and electronic defense systems for naval, airborne and ground. The company in on board of all major modern military platforms: the Eurofighter Typhoon, the NFH-90 helicopter, the Italian PPA platform, the Italian and French ships Horizon and FREMM. The company is part of Elettronica Group that also includes CY4GATE, specialized in Cyber EW, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence, and ELT Gmbh in Meckenheim, a subsidiary specialising in the integration of EW sensor on military platforms and the design of Radar/EW test and training solutions.
Rohde & Schwarz is a leading supplier of electronic warfare (EW) and SIGINT solutions worldwide, the company offers a broad product portfolio optimized for detecting, recording and analyzing modern communications signals (COMINT) and radar emitters (ELINT). The company offers scalable strategic and tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems for the different echelons air/space, land, sea and cyber. These are available with modular and scalable sensor subsystems for either manual or automatic ESM as well as COMINT/ELINT operations. These solutions are designed to handle challenging signal scenarios and have been field-proven by numerous armed forces and authorities around the world.
29 Jun 21. Pentagon to send AI, data teams to combatant commands this summer. The Defense Department will start sending out teams of data and artificial intelligence experts in the next month to help combatant commands speed AI implementation efforts as part of a new initiative.
“Our combatant commanders have some of the most intense decision-making environments, but have yet to have the opportunity to apply the latest tools to responsive decision support. And we want to correct that. And we want to do that in a repeatable way,” Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, the director of the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, told reporters June 24.
DOD announced it was launching the AI and data accelerator (ADA) initiative during its AI symposium earlier that week. The goal, Groen said, is to test algorithms in real warfighter scenarios to uncover potential barriers to adoption, from latency issues to policy constraints.
The JAIC is also working with the individual services on their efforts from the Army’s Project Convergence to the Navy’s Project Overmatch and the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, but it aims to address data readiness challenges from cleaning data to workflows and so allow combatant commanders to “experiment with data driven decision-making,” Groen said.
The first data reinforcement teams will likely be deployed over the next 30 days with the JAIC helping combatant commands build flyaway teams within the next 90 days, he said.
“We also want to do that in a way that scales. If we make progress at one combatant command and help their decision processes, we expect to be able to rapidly scale those capabilities across other combatant commands to help their decision-making as well,” Groen said.
The general said the initiative will help the DOD rethink development and infrastructure as it tries to shift to more software-defined capabilities as part of a “new operating model” with “pieces that purposely fit together.”
“You can do it in a lab. But when you bring that lab-tested capability out to the combatant commander or out somewhere on the tactical edge, you’re going to realize, ‘Holy cow, the latency here is horrible’…[or] the reliability and the uptime of the servers that are required is not sufficient.”
Groen said bureaucratic, technical and cultural obstacles are expected, which is why involvement from DOD’s CIOs and chief data officers is crucial to improving the networks and policies.
“If we learn what those obstacles are, then we can address the real problems [with] AI implementation,” Groen said. “Until we can actually employ them on, in the environments that they’re expected to operate in and then expect it to work, we’re not going to know. And that’s unacceptable to us.” (Source: Defense Systems)
29 Jun 21. Persistent Systems delivers on protected communications contract with U.S. Army C5ISR Center. Network hardened to meet electronic warfare threat to future manned-unmanned operations pursued by U.S. military. Persistent Systems, LLC (“Persistent”) announced today that it has completed work on its $5.4m contract with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command C5ISR Center to develop protected communications for Manned-Unmanned Teams (MUM-T).
As part of the 18-month-long contract, Persistent worked with the C5ISR Center’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate to harden the company’s mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) firmware, used in all its hardware devices, to counter jamming and hacking threats to MUM-T operations.
“MUM-T envisions warfighters controlling and operating alongside unmanned systems,” said Brian Soles, Vice President of Government and Military Relations and Business Strategy for Persistent. “The Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, for example, is meant to be networked with Robotic Combat Vehicles.”
All of this requires a robust, secure, and high-throughput communications network.
“Our MANET solution is designed to keep pace with EW and cyber threats from near-peer powers,” said Rahul Pandya, Programs Manager for Persistent. “In fact, it was the very first solution validated by the Army’s electronic warfare lab.”
The protections developed by Persistent are “always on,” so no product configuration is required, Pandya added. The capability is a firmware upgrade, compatible with all of Persistent’s Wave Relay® MANET devices, and customers will get it for free as a part of their regular firmware updates.
In addition to the hardened firmware, Persistent’s work with the C5ISR Center has led to the creation of the GVR5, a new dual-band MANET radio for combat vehicles.
Developed in conjunction with General Dynamics Mission Systems, the GVR5 operates on two frequency bands, simultaneously enabling continuous connectivity in RF-contested environments. The system delivers automated PACE (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency) communications, enabling it to automatically select the best performing frequency band to ensure robust communication.
“The GVR5 is a mature and robust solution,” Soles said. “We’ve already seen a lot of interest in the product from various services as well as international allies.”
The Persistent team appreciates the support, collaboration, expertise, and teamwork from the U.S Army C5ISR Center. Working together, we are able deliver a more robust capability to the warfighter. (Source: PR Newswire)
28 Jun 21. USAF activates first of its kind wing for spectrum.
The Air Force officially activated June 25 a new, first of its kind wing aimed at the increasing importance of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, which has been in the works for more than a year, received the designation to start work from Air Combat Command June 25, a release said. The group hopes to enable, equip and optimize the fielding of EMS capabilities with the aim of providing a sustainable and competitive advantage in the non-physical realm. The wing will also provide maintenance, operational and technical expertise for electronic warfare support.
The wing is headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base while a permanent location is chosen. It reports to the Air Force Warfare Center, which performs operational test and evaluation, tactics development, and advanced training.
In recent years, adversaries have noted how U.S. forces are reliant in the spectrum and have sought to disrupt them by adopting high-tech methods to block access and jam or spoof communications.
“The competition in the electromagnetic spectrum is more important than ever before. The Joint Force is connected by and delivers effects in and through the EMS,” Col. William Young, commander of the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing, said. “If we lose the fight in the EMS, we will lose the fights in all other domains. We’re here to help make sure that doesn’t happen. Standing up this unit emphasizes the Air Force’s commitment to consolidating and modernizing our entire enterprise so that joint warfighters have freedom to attack, maneuver and protect themselves at the time, place and parameters of our choosing.”
The wing is the result of a yearlong study the Air Force kicked off in 2018 that examined the service’s approach to the electromagnetic spectrum.
“The activation of the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing is the latest step the Air Force has taken to maintain our competitive advantage in electromagnetic warfare,” Maj. Gen. Case Cunningham, commander of the Air Force Warfare Center, said. “Placing this critical mission under a wing commander dedicated to this mission set is fundamental to accelerating needed change and ensuring our warfighters can continue to fight and win in the EMS.”
The wing’s activation is also one piece to a larger multifaceted approach the Air Force is taking to reinvigorate its operations within the electromagnetic sphere to gain an advantage against adversaries. Other methods include reorganizing headquarters staff and modernizing legacy equipment. (Source: Defense News)
29 June 21. Adarga to Deploy Critical Artificial Intelligence Capability to the British Army in Contract Win. First live deployment of AI into The Field Army to enhance information exploitation underpins technology’s vital role in transforming defence capability following the UK’s Integrated Review. Adarga has been awarded a key contract to deliver its state-of-the-art AI-powered Knowledge PlatformTM to the British Army for an extended Capability Concept Demonstrator. The UK developed software platform will enable the Army to exploit the vast, untapped and growing amount of data at its disposal at a speed and scale previously unimaginable to maximise its effectiveness on operations. The multimillion pound, multi-year software licence is the Field Army’s first deployment of AI in day-to-day use, a significant development following the recent Integrated Review in which the UK Government committed to investing in new and emerging technologies to modernise Defence capability and enable the UK to maintain a competitive edge over its adversaries.
The ability for the Army to better understand and effectively exploit the myriad of valuable information and knowledge available to them, which includes practical military experience from decades of lessons learnt on training and operations, is vital in succeeding in the highly-dynamic, challenging environments in which the Army operates.
Adarga’s AI platform, incorporating cutting-edge data science technology, provides the transformational approach the Army is seeking to enhance and extend its human capability, solve complex data problems and digitise otherwise time and knowledge intensive tasks. Mission critical insights and hidden data connections can be identified by the platform in seconds, presenting information that may have otherwise been missed or would have required weeks to find through human analysis. This is critical in today’s fast-moving and competitive Information Age. The British Army’s ability to maintain the initiative fundamentally depends on how rapidly personnel across the whole force gain and maintain understanding in an increasingly complex information environment and where replicating past mistakes could have fatal consequences for success. Adarga is providing the technology to enhance the intellectual agility and speed of action of the British Army.
Adarga’s Knowledge PlatformTM fuses a variety of data formats from across a range of disparate Army sources and data repositories, combining these with other valuable real-world, open-source data in a single software platform. The platform uses high-fidelity AI models, trained to understand and analyse complex defence and national security data, to convert data sources and incoming, real-time information feeds into readily accessible knowledge.
The platform creates a rich and ever-growing, interconnected digital picture, drawing complex links between critical pieces of information. Users benefit from an intuitive user interface providing a single view in which to explore this expanding knowledge – including videos and foreign language documents that have been transcribed and translated by the platform. Along with expansive visualisations of their topics of interest such as event timelines, network builders, graphs and maps, machine-generated document summaries and reports, suggested and corroborated reading on topics of interest and much more.
Adarga is solving one of the most complex challenges brought about by the pervasiveness of information – using cutting-edge AI to read and understand human language including text, voice and video – alongside structured data, to present it to users in context of their particular mission focus. Adarga’s Knowledge Platform™ is helping Army personnel to prioritise information requirements, make sense of given context, apply learning and to make better decisions. This improved access to knowledge is key to succeeding on operations, reducing risk and maximising effectiveness.
29 June 21. UK turns down INS capability on Boxer to save £8m? Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that the UK MOD has turned down the opportunity to have the Inertial Navigation System (INS) in Boxer. INS is a common fit for the German Boxers and of course a crucial system in an era of GPS denial which we have written about on numerous occasions. Saving £8m could be a saving too far and put soldiers’ lives in peril?
28 Jun 21. Northrop Grumman Building ‘Justified Confidence’ for Integrated Artificial Intelligence Systems. AI development aligns with U.S. Department of Defense’s ethics principles.
“Justified confidence” in artificial intelligence is more than just new buzzwords. It’s about developing AI systems that are robust, reliable and accountable, and ensuring these attributes can be verified and validated.
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) Final Report highlights emerging consensus on the principles for using AI ethically and responsibly for defense and intelligence applications.
As the report states, if AI systems do not work as designed or are unpredictable, “leaders will not adopt them, operators will not use them, Congress will not fund them, and the American people will not support them.”
That is why justified confidence is so important for AI-enabled systems.
Essential technology for national defense
AI is pivotal technology. It is already ubiquitous in our everyday lives, from streaming services to navigation apps to secure banking.
But AI is also playing a role in national defense, such as way-finding for unmanned vehicles, automated target recognition, and many other applications that prize speed, scale and efficiency. Certain functions are simply not possible using traditional computation or manual processes.
The power of AI is its ability to learn and adapt to changing situations. The battlefield is a dynamic environment and the side that adapts fastest gains the advantage.
But like with all systems, AI is vulnerable to attack and failure. To truly harness the power of AI technology, developers must align with the ethical principles adopted by the U.S. Department of Defense.
To achieve this, companies like Northrop Grumman require a cohesive policy and governance processes for AI, spanning from development to testing and operations.
An Integrated Approach For Secure and Ethical AI
No one entity has all the answers. Delivering on the promise of robust, reliable and accountable AI systems requires a team effort – industry, government and academia all have roles to play.
Northrop Grumman is taking a systems engineering approach to AI development and is a conduit for pulling in university research, commercial best practices and government expertise and oversight.
One of our partners is a Silicon Valley startup, Credo AI. They are sharing their governance tools as we apply comprehensive, relevant ethical AI policies to guide in own our AI development. We are also working with universities like Carnegie Mellon to develop new secure and ethical AI best practices, in addition to collaborating with leading commercial companies to advance AI technology.
Another step the company is taking is to extend our DevSecOps process to automate and document best practices in the development, testing, deployment, and monitoring of AI software systems.
Critical to success is Northrop Grumman’s AI workforce – because knowing how to develop AI technology is just one piece of the complex mosaic. Our AI engineers also understand the mission implications of the technology they develop to ensure operational effectiveness of AI systems in its intended mission space. That why we continue to invest in a mission-focused AI workforce through formal training, mentoring and apprenticeship programs.
To learn more about how Northrop Grumman is defining possible in AI, visit: https://www.northropgrumman.com/cyber/artificial-intelligence-and-machine-learning/
Aligning with the DoD’s Five Ethical Principles of AI
Northrop Grumman’s secure DevSecOps practices and mission-focused employee training helps to ensure appropriate use of judgment and care in responsible AI development.
We strive for equitable algorithms and minimize the potential for unintended bias by leveraging a diverse engineering team and testing for data bias using commercial best practices, among other monitoring techniques.
We developed tools to provide an immutable log of data provenance, ensuring traceable, transparent, and auditable development processes.
We enable reliability through an emphasis on mission understanding to develop explicit, well-defined cases in which our AI systems will operate. Leveraging best practices, our work in AI governance enables robust risk assessment, algorithmic transparency and graceful termination when required.
This integrated approach from development to operation is essential to achieving justified confidence in our AI-enabled systems.
28 Jun 21. China’s cyber power at least a decade behind the US, new study finds. International Institute for Strategic Studies says Beijing’s online capabilities have been ‘exaggerated.’ IISS researchers ranked countries on a spectrum of cyber capabilities, from the strength of their digital economies, to security functions and military operations. China’s strengths as a cyber power are being undermined by poor security and weak intelligence analysis, according to new research that predicts Beijing will be unable to match US cyber capabilities for at least a decade. The study, published on Monday by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, comes as a series of hacking campaigns have highlighted the growing threat of online espionage by hostile states. In December, US officials discovered that Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, had hijacked SolarWinds software to penetrate government targets in Washington including the commerce and Treasury departments. Three months later, Microsoft email software was compromised by suspected Chinese state-backed hackers to probe US non-governmental organisations and think-tanks. IISS researchers ranked countries on a spectrum of cyber capabilities, from the strength of their digital economies and the maturity of their intelligence and security functions to how well cyber facilities were integrated with military operations. China, like Russia, has proven expertise in offensive cyber operations — conducting online spying, intellectual property theft and disinformation campaigns against the US and its allies. But both countries were held back by comparatively loose cyber security compared with their competitors, according to the IISS. As a result, only the US is ranked as a “top tier” cyber power by the think-tank, with China, Russia, the UK, Australia, Canada, France and Israel in the second tier. The third tier comprises India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, North Korea, Iran and Vietnam. Greg Austin, an expert in cyber, space and future conflict at the IISS, said media reports focusing only on the positive sides of China’s digital advances — such as its aspirations to become a global leader in artificial intelligence — had contributed to an “exaggerated” perception of its cyber prowess. “On every measure, the development of skills for cyber security in China is in a worse position than it is in many other countries,” he said. According to the report, Beijing’s focus on “content security” — limiting politically-subversive information on its domestic internet — may have diminished its focus on policing the physical networks that transport it. The IISS also suggested China’s analysis of cyber intelligence was “less mature” than that of the Five Eyes intelligence allies (the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) because it was driven by ideology and “increasingly enmeshed with . . . the political goals” of Communist party leaders. Austin said the information age was reshaping global dynamics so traditionally powerful countries such as India and Japan had begun to lag behind in the third tier of cyber operators, while smaller countries such as Israel and Australia had built up cutting-edge cyber skills that had propelled them into the second tier. Recommended Cyber Security Ransomware hackers now bigger cyber threat to UK than hostile states What set the US apart in the first tier, according to the IISS, was its unparalleled digital-industrial base, its cryptographic expertise and the ability to execute “sophisticated, surgical” cyber strikes against adversaries. Unlike opponents such as China and Russia, the US also benefited from close alliances with other cyber powers, including its Five Eyes partners. However, the US and its allies were increasingly at risk of ransomware attacks — such as those on Colonial Pipeline and Ireland’s health service last month — by Russian criminal hackers who are not state-directed but whose activities are apparently tolerated by authorities. Robert Hannigan, former director of the UK’s intelligence agency GCHQ and now a senior executive at cyber security company BlueVoyant, said he agreed with many of the IISS conclusions but questioned how much Beijing and Moscow would be held back by weak cyber defences. “While it is true that cyber security is less well developed in Russia and China, they need it less urgently than open western economies,” Hannigan said. “The threat is not symmetrical: western economies are under siege from cyber criminal groups based in and tolerated or licensed by Russia — the same is not true in reverse.” He added that while Russia knew that the west would not indiscriminately target civilian critical infrastructure in a destructive way, Russian agencies “have licence to be reckless”. “That in turn demands higher levels of cyber security in the west,” he said. (Source: FT.com)
25 Jun 21. NXTCOMM Selected by L3Harris Technologies to Develop Ku-band Antenna for Land-Mobile Warfighter Connectivity. NXTCOMM Defense, the defense division of NXT Communications Corporation, announced today that L3Harris Technologies has selected NXTCOMM to develop an Electronically Steerable Antenna (ESA) to support U.S. Department of Defense warfighters. First deliveries of NXTCOMM’s ESAs are scheduled for Q1 2022.
“NXTCOMM is excited to team with L3Harris, a global aerospace and defense technology innovator, to ensure mobile connectivity of our nation’s warfighters,” said David Horton, CEO, NXTCOMM. “We look forward to enhancing L3Harris’ connectivity reliability and speed with smarter, nimbler flat panel antenna technology that can immediately enhance the situational awareness of our soldiers deployed on the ground.”
With no moving parts, NXTCOMM’s ESA works over GEO, LEO, MEO or HEO satellites in a form factor that slots into products today while connecting with LEO satellites that will be full constellations in the next few years.
“In order to meet the evolving needs of our customers L3Harris required a state-of-the-art, small form factor ESA suitable for both manpack and flyaway terminals. NXTCOMM’s ESAs are an ideal complement to L3Harris’ industry-leading VSAT technologies, enabling the multi-orbit terminals that our customers need,” said Chris Aebli, President, Global Communications Systems, L3Harris. “L3Harris is excited about the partnership with NXTCOMM and looks forward to delivering this exciting capability to the hands of our warfighters.”
NXTCOMM continues to build out its internal capabilities and infrastructure to support additional customer requirements and manufacturing heading into 2022. (Source: PR Newswire)
28 Jun 21. Barrett Releases the 4020 HF Radio Mailbox. Based on the success of Barrett’s 2020 HF Fax and Data System, used worldwide for the past 15 years, the new 4020 HF Radio Mailbox utilises new technologies to deliver seamless IMAP synchronised email over HF Radio and onto users’ smart devices. A feature previously unavailable to the HF radio user.
The HF Radio Mailbox has been developed to meet the increasing demand by users to communicate via email from wherever they are, including remote and isolated locations connected only by HF radio, and a smartphone, tablet or laptop using existing and familiar email platforms such as Outlook, Gmail and Apple Mail.
Previously, each user was required to run PC based applications to send and receive POP/SMTP email via HF radio. The HF radio Mailbox requires no PC connection and handles all incoming and outgoing secure mail transfers, requiring the user to simply connect their smart device to the Mailbox’s inbuilt WiFi hotspot and directly synchronise their mail account. Any mail received by the Mailbox is automatically synchronised with the user’s device and outgoing mail is sent via the HF radio using automatic link establishment to the radio gateway and on to the private/public domain mail server. The small size of the HF Radio Mailbox makes it adaptable to a wide range of base station, mobile and even Manpack applications.
25 Jun 21. The USAF’s new ABMS strategy: Buy new capability, now, In fiscal 2021, Congress slashed funding for the Advanced Battle Management System, leaving only about half of the money requested by the Air Force for one of its top modernization priorities.
For the Air Force, it was a wake-up call that the program had become too nebulous and focused on technology demonstration exercises, said Gen. Dave Allvin, the Air Force’s vice chief of staff.
“We understood that, when Congress looked at [the budget], that it was wasn’t clear enough. That perhaps we hadn’t laid out a clear enough path to justify the funds that we were requesting,” Allvin told reporters during a June 24 roundtable. “We had to look ourselves in the mirror and say, we need to better align ourselves to be able to articulate more clearly what we want to do.”
Now, the service finds itself having to correct the course of the program.
The cornerstone of the ABMS program up to now had been “on-ramp” experiments where the Air Force and defense companies tested whether various off-the-shelf technologies could give operators an edge during a scripted exercise.
Going forward, the service wants to highlight plans to buy “hard capabilities” that could be pushed to airmen for further testing, maturation and use in operations. Ultimately, the goal is to field layers of new networking, communications and machine learning technologies that would be interwoven to — eventually — connect the aircraft, sensors, and operations centers that identify, track and prosecute targets.
For fiscal 2022, the Air Force has asked for about $204m for the ABMS program. The sum is a considerable increase from the $158m lawmakers approved in FY21 but is far short of the $449m it had planned to request in FY22, according to previous budget documents.
“That’s part of us just being better stewards, quite frankly,” Allvin said. “We anticipate that the investments that we’ve asked for will provide that return, they’ll provide Congress the confidence to help us out in the future if we were to look for more money in the budget years to come.”
What will lawmakers get for that $204m?
More than half of those funds will go toward the first ABMS “capability release” to be procured and delivered to the field: a bespoke pod for the Boeing KC-46 refueling tanker that will allow it to act as a communications node for the stealthy F-22 and F-35 fighters, which cannot currently share information.
The Air Force plans to field four pods for an early operational capability by the end of FY22 but could acquire up to 10 pods, said Brig. Gen. Jeffery Valenzia, who leads the Air Force’s ABMS cross-functional team.
Some of the FY22 dollars will lay the groundwork for the next two capability releases, which are still in the planning stages. The second ABMS increment will deliver hardware, software and artificial intelligence algorithms to U.S. Northern Command aimed at increasing the speed commanders can make decisions, Valenzia said.
That AI may be trained to identify anomalous patterns of life or characterize objects that could pose a threat to the nation, as well as to provide options to commanders on whether to strike a target or take other action.
“We need to have a good understanding of the quality of the data sources, of the corruptibility of the data sources, of the security of the data sources, because that will inform us as to how much we trust the data coming into the machine,” Allvin said.
The third capability release, Valenzia said, will be more foundational, aimed at building network infrastructure and processing vast amounts of data across a larger enterprise.
Last November, the Air Force announced it was ready to begin procurement of the first elements of what will eventually become the Advanced Battle Management System. With that shift, the service would transition acquisition authority for the program to the Air Force’s Rapid Capability Office.
Valenzia’s cross-functional team would generate requirements for ABMS capability releases and figure out how to integrate those new technologies into the service’s existing doctrine, training and operations. Meanwhile, Air Force Chief Architect Preston Dunlap would continue running periodic experiments with emerging tech that could funnel into later capability releases.
There are signs that the Air Force’s new approach may be more palatable to lawmakers and experts who had previously criticized the structure of the ABMS program.
The Government Accountability Office slammed the program in an April 2020 report, stating that the ABMS effort was at risk of delays and cost overruns because it had not finalized an acquisition strategy or put forward a cost estimate.
GAO Director Marie Mak told C4ISRNet in an interview earlier this month that the Air Force’s transition of the program to the RCO is a step in the right direction.
“When we first started looking at ABMS it was demo after demo, and we were sort of like, what’s your point?” Mak said.
“I think now that the RCO [Rapid Capabilities Office] has taken it, they’ve made a concerted effort to not focus on just the demos … and that’s what the budget seems to be focusing on as well longer term. So that’s a good thing,” she said.
However, the service hasn’t answered all concerns.
Allvin acknowledged that — because of the incremental and iterative nature of the ABMS program — the Air Force is still not able to provide a full cost estimate for the program, and may not be able to ever forecast how much the service will spend on the effort.
“Where the cost estimates really become crystallized is associated with the capability releases,” he said. “That’s where you get an acquisition strategy. And that’s where … those who understand cost, schedule and performance really can dig into that and see the specificity of it.”
The Air Force plans on developing a full cost estimate for each capability release, with the estimate for the first capability release due at the end of June, Allvin said.
“It’s different, which is why we are getting we need to be very transparent with what we’re doing, how we’re approaching it, in order to give Congress and the public who gives us the money, the confidence that what we’re doing has a design and an objective.” (Source: Defense News)
25 Jun 21. DOD Wants Partners to Up Their Cybersecurity Game, Official Says. The Defense Department wants to help its partner contractors, large and small, become better at their own cybersecurity efforts, the deputy assistant of defense for cyber policy said yesterday.
“We definitely want to make sure that size is not an obstacle to working with the Defense Department,” Mieke Eoyang said at the Defense One Tech Summit. “And we are trying to figure out how to make it easier for [contractors] to understand what kinds of better security practices are out there and what they can do to protect themselves.”
Eoyang said U.S. adversaries are very much aware that DOD relies on innovation, but she added DOD doesn’t just look at only large contractors when looking for a technological edge. It’s also important for contractors to adopt best practices in cybersecurity — such as turning on multi-factor authentication, using cloud migration or working with cybersecurity companies — to enhance their own security, she said.
DOD participates in whole-of-government activities to target and disrupt ransomware, the deputy assistant secretary said, adding that the department is willing to work through its intelligence and law enforcement partners to provide insights to disrupt such threats.
It’s vital for industry to think about this from the perspective of resilience, Eoyang said of protection in cybersecurity.
“Companies need to be prepared for the possibility that it could happen to them,” Eoyang said. “They need to improve their security, make themselves harder targets, but also really think about continuity of operations, so if, or when, they get hit, they know how to keep moving and how to work around the problem. But I don’t think that we want to be in a position where people are turning to the Department of Defense to try and stop every single criminal gang out there …. We have to be able to focus on those nation state adversaries, and we do focus on that. But in the meantime, people also need to focus on improving their own resilience, being harder targets.”
DOD is resilient and mature in its cybersecurity practices, the deputy assistant secretary said. “I think it’s very clear from the president on down … and other countries should make no mistake about the seriousness with which the United States treats this problem and our interest in being able to get after malicious actors.”
DOD has been working through U.S. Cyber Command and other entities, she said, directly with industry to help contractors identify potential malicious activity on their networks. “And there are other things we can do to help people — [such as] when we identify malware, we can post it out there for the world to see — so that they can take that into consideration as part of their efforts to secure their own systems.”
As DOD considers how to bolster its allies, security cooperation is a big factor, Eoyang said. “What I’ve seen so far is that one of the No. 1 requests to the combatant commanders for security cooperation assistance is in the area of cybersecurity. But we do not have the clarity of offerings that the private sector could provide under security cooperation funds to our partners and allies, so I would encourage industry to work with us so that we have a better understanding of what might be available, what they might be able to provide through security cooperation, to help shore up the cybersecurity of our partners and allies. And [our] door’s always open to talk about that.” (Source: US DoD)
25 Jun 21. Significant integration of AI in naval vessels to take less than ten years: Poll. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly evolving technology that has significant implications for a range of sectors including defence. The technology provides advantages such as reducing the crew required and enabling faster decision making. Verdict has conducted a poll to assess the time it would take for AI to be integrated significantly into naval vessels. Analysis of the poll results shows that a majority 75% of the respondents expect the significant integration of AI to take not more than ten years. While 43% expect it to take less than five years, 32% anticipate it to happen over ten years or lesser.
A lesser 25% of the respondents expect the integration to take a longer time of more than ten years.
AI integration in naval vessels
The world’s leading navies are increasingly deploying AI to enable warships to process data and provide enhanced situational awareness to the crew. The US Department of Defence (DoD), for example, has highlighted that AI can provide military and economic advantages especially in view of rapidly rising threats from China, which has made significant advancements in AI aided by strong government support.
Although the application of AI in navy is still in the nascent stage, studies and programmes are underway to test the capabilities of the technology. The US Naval Surface Warfare Center, for example, is developing SWARM-Tac, which provides naval ships with situation awareness including the number of weapons onboard and the number of attackers. It provides data on the probability of success of a chosen solution on how to evade an enemy or destroy swarm of enemy boats. An at-sea test onboard a naval ship delivered significant results.
Further, the US DoD recently awarded a $44m contract to Austal USA to design and develop autonomous capability for the USNS Apalachicola expeditionary fast transport vessel. The UK Royal Navy is also exploring AI for naval ships under its Defence Science Technology Laboratory’s (Dstl) Intelligent Ship project. The navy tested the Startle and Sycoiea AI applications for the first time at sea onboard the HMS Dragon destroyer and HMS Lancaster Frigate against a supersonic missile threat. The applications were developed as part of the Above Water Systems programme led by researchers of Dstl. (Source: naval-technology.com)
24 Jun 21. ShOC-N at Nellis Air Force Base supports ABMS development. The ABMS development is aimed at helping commanders and soldiers achieving decision superiority through rapid information sharing. The US Nellis Air Force Base’s (AFB) Shadow Operations Center (ShOC-N) is supporting the development of the US Air Force’s efforts to build the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).
ShOC-N is contributing through DevSecOps, which is bringing together software developers, information technology (IT) operators and troops.
This integration right from the beginning will allow quick delivery of operationally relevant and cyber-secure software to troops, reports 1st lieutenant Nicolle Mathison.
The ABMS development is aimed at creating decision superiority by delivering ‘information and capabilities’ to decision-makers at all airforce echelons.
USAF 805th Combat Training Squadron commander lieutenant colonel David Spitler said: “The ShOC-N (Shadow Operations Center) is the virtual and physical playground for information collection and sense-making using data.
“We can accommodate many levels of classification and expose data to new applications and tools at the appropriate classification to enable decision-making.”
It has been tasked by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to become the USAF’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) battle laboratory for information gathering.
According to USAF, one of the ways that the ShOC-N laboratory helped get at the JADC2 goal of allowing rapid decision-making was to host a JADC2 21-1, J6 campaign.
This campaign involved gathering experts from all domains at Nellis AFB and connected 17 different battle laboratories from across the DoD to interchange ‘operationally relevant data’, which was viewed using experimental software applications.
Spitler added: “The goal of the exercises and campaigns is to enable better understanding of the cyber domain from all branches’ perspectives.
“So what we did was bring in a software tool or application that we didn’t have before. It didn’t involve a ten-year cycle to make, because it was already developed.”
Another goal for the development process of applications at the ShOC-N laboratory is to allow the messaging of command actions through a consolidated number of tools. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
25 Jun 21. Intrepid Tiger II EW payload takes flight in MV-22 Osprey. The newest variant of the US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) AN/ALQ-231(V) Intrepid Tiger II electronic-warfare (EW) system has begun flight testing on the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor.
Intrepid Tiger II is a network-enabled family of systems that has been developed to deliver a Rapid Deployment Capability to support ground combat operations, especially the requirement for counter-communications and irregular warfare radio-frequency target sets. The system is designed and developed by the US Naval Air Warfare Center (NAWC) Weapons Division in conjunction with the Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR’s) Airborne Electronic Attack Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234); Jopana Technologies provides support to NAWC Weapons Division through the provision of systems hardware and engineering services for Intrepid Tiger II.
The (V)1 variant of Intrepid Tiger II is already fielded on the AV-8B Harrier II, F/A-18 A++/C/D Hornet, and KC-130J aircraft, while the (V)3 version is cleared on the UH-1Y Huey helicopter. Both the (V)1 and (V)3 instantiations use a podded payload attached to an external hardpoint.
An externally mounted pod was not an option for the MV-22 as the aircraft does not have traditional wing stations from which to mount external payloads. Instead, the AN/ALQ-231(V)4 variant takes the form of an internal roll-on/roll-off rack-mounted payload controlled from a laptop in the aircraft cabin. (Source: Jane’s)
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