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29 Dec 21. New US Army cyber unit is building concepts for tactical cyber operations. After nearly two decades of conflict against technologically inferior and insurgency-focused adversaries, the U.S. military and the Army are honing their cyber training against more sophisticated forces.
The Army, for its part, is moving toward a multidomain-capable force, which envisions the seamless integration of forces and capabilities across all spheres of warfare; air, land, sea, space and cyber, as well as the information dimension.
Part of realizing a multidomain force is meeting the need for tactical cyber and information capabilities outside of U.S. Cyber Command. Following a series of exercises and experimental units, the Army activated the 915th Cyber Warfare Battalion in 2019.
This first-of-its-kind unit is designed to provide non-lethal capabilities such as cyber, electronic warfare and information operations in support of Army Service Component Commands and their subordinate elements.
“What we are is a new organization that’s helping define what it means to do multidomain operations from an information advantage standpoint and then through our innovation and experimentation, that’s what’s ultimately going to get recorded in doctrine,” Lt. Col. Benjamin Klimkowski, commander of the 915th, said. “The doctrine writers have never done this before. They need our input to help shape that. It’s our experimentation and our operations that pushes that piece.”
The vision is by 2026 the 915th will consist of 12 expeditionary cyber and electromagnetic activities teams (ECTs), each capable of providing cyber, electronic-warfare and information operations. Currently, there are three companies within the battalion with two ECTs under a separate company, consisting of a total of over 200 personnel. The third ECT is slated to be created at the end of fiscal year 2022.
Moreover, the goal is that each ECT will be aligned to specific geographic theaters.
The Army will have 12 expeditionary cyber and electromagnetic teams by 2026.
However, much is still uncertain between then and now as the force is being built. For example, initial and full operating capability criteria for teams are still in the works, officials explained.
The information space changes so rapidly that tactics, techniques, procedures and capabilities will likely need to evolve on a constant basis. The unit is concurrently trying to validate its teams — for which training goals are still being developed on the fly – as well as working on concepts.
“The challenge and growing the cyber force is that it takes time,” Klimkowski, said.
Innovation shaping the future of tactical cyber
Despite nearly ten years of cyber operations within the military, there was little to go on for tactical, on-the-ground cyber operations for conventional forces outside the special operations community.
“On the doctrine side, it hasn’t been a struggle, it’s been an evolution. From the strategic operations to the tactical level, the requirements and the threats that are out there constantly make it evolve,” battalion Sgt. Maj. Marlene Harshman said. “Doctrine, if you will, is, ‘This is how you can do it.’ Well, but what happens if this is how you can do it today but not how you do it tomorrow?”
From the beginning, the battalion and its higher headquarters were given a lot of latitude to innovate and develop the concepts it would need to shape what tactical cyber means.
“Experimentation was key and it was something that 780th [Military Intelligence Brigade] and [Army Cyber Command] said, ‘Hey, you’re a new unit. Take these soldiers and allow them to innovate, allow them to experiment, you got a lot of talent and utilize that these first couple of years.’ We’re not done with that phase. We always want our soldiers to innovate. That will continue through the life of our unit,” Maj. Richard Byrne, the battalion’s operations and training officer, said.
“It’s pretty impressive to take a unit that was largely ideas, concepts, a lot of guidance from higher and take it to where we are now where we’re starting to create a unit that’s steady-state, a little bit more defined and preparing for support to our theaters.”
In fact, they are continuing to evolve training objectives and concepts. During an experiment last year, the unit worked to define key mission essential tasks and objectives needed to validate itself as a ready unit.
“One of the big changes between this year and last year, … the [qualification requirements] that we’ve created weren’t around last year and a lot of experience from the [combat training center] rotations and the experienced soldiers that we’ve got on this unit, a lot of experience went into those and what our training objectives should be, are and will be,” Capt. Gabriel Akonom, an officer with the battalion, said.
What will they do?
As the Army moves to become what it calls multidomain-capable by 2028, the 915th will play a key role in the increasingly important competition — or gray zone — sphere below the threshold of armed conflict.
The battalion is currently aligned with Army-owned component commands at the theater level and will support lower-echelon units as needed. It’s not organic to these units — like military intelligence or military police units — meaning a unit must request assistance from the 915th in a certain scenario based on the mission.
Specifically, its soldiers assist in targeting and providing non-lethal effects while also helping to characterize enemy networks through intelligence and reconnaissance.
New tactical cyber teams will support theater commanders during the competition continuum of conflict.
“The 915th CWB’s unique close-access and proximal tactical capabilities will be critical” in penetrating enemy defenses, Akonom wrote in The Byte, an online publication published by the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade.
Near-peer adversaries will have very complex systems, necessitating the need to be constantly in contact with them during combat.
Meanwhile, officials said the exact relationship to Cyber Command, which can provide unique remote cyber support to a theater, and the unit is still being determined.
“In each theater it’s going to look different because the [geographic combatant command] and then, by extension, the executive agent for that respective joint force headquarters for cyber is going to employ their forces differently,” Klimkowski said, referencing the Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber structure in which a specific service employs cyber capabilities for geographic combatant commands on behalf of Cyber Command.
“We know INDOPACOM is very different than EUCOM and so it’s going to look different. We’re still working through the nuances of every GCC, but it’s just different.”
As a support element to Army Service Component Commands, the 915th will work very closely with the Multidomain Task Forces, which were designed to be in constant contact with adversaries during the so-called competition phase of conflict. Those units possess a specific battalion that focuses on cyber, electronic warfare, space and information.
One of the key differences between the two, however, is the 915th has the authority to conduct offensive operations.
Officials stressed that in this dynamic domain of cyberspace and information, the unit must maintain its edge to be flexible and innovative, all while continuing to grow and shift with the Army as it builds toward multidomain operations.
“We were designed during the global war on terrorism, but as the Army started thinking critically about large-scale combat operations, we too have essentially have shifted our focus on that as well,” Klimkowski said. “We’re evolving with you and that’s driven some of our thought processes and what’s most critical and what we need to focus on. We’ve had to adapt some of the things that we were previously doing now for a completely new context and situation.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
29 Dec 21. US Army hopes to recover from IT modernization missteps. The past year saw several bumpy tech platform rollouts across the Army. The service’s new Deloitte-designed platform for educational benefits, Army Ignited, was rushed out before it was ready due to contract issues, leaving thousands of soldiers with the burden of pursuing exceptions to policy to continue their education. Some troops continue to report issues with the new platform, as well.
The Army has also delayed the launch of a new version of its human resources and pay platform, IPPS-A, until at least September 2022. Senior leaders said the delay was because IPPS-A simply wasn’t ready.
“Frankly, in part because of [the failed Army Ignited launch], as well as the lessons learned from that experience, when we looked at where IPPS-A was, we made the decision that it was better to delay the rollout of that so that we can make absolutely sure that the system was going to work when it actually does go live,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in an October press conference.
IPPS-A must pass another round of tests led by CACI, the lead contractor on the half-billion-dollar project, ahead of its rescheduled rollout.
The service’s top IT officials say they’re committed to ensuring that the first major IT hurdle of 2022 — the ongoing transition from Defense Enterprise Email services to new Army 365 email — will go more smoothly. One concern that many across the Army have is whether there will be an interruption in official email services for the 250,000 personnel who won’t receive an Army 365-based email.
“Between now and March, when [DEE] is slated for decommissioning, we will have a solution to transition everybody and their current email capabilities to either Army 365 or an alternate [email] solution,” Dr. Raj Iyer, the Army’s chief information officer, told reporters in December.
It’s still not clear what that extra email solution will be, though, and Iyer said “we’re unable to to share any additional information, because that at this point is all contract- and acquisition-sensitive.”
Regardless, the CIO said the Army is “well on our way to implementing the alternate solution and hav[ing] it ready in time.”
Lt. Gen. John Morrison Jr., an Army deputy chief of staff for cyber, also revealed that the service may be able to put the brakes on the old email system’s March 31 sunset if “conditions,” such as delays in an alternate email solution, aren’t met in time. (Source: Defense News)
27 Dec 21. Italy to use TIM-led project as blueprint in national cloud tender. Italy will use a proposal presented by a consortium that includes Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI) as a blueprint in the national cloud tender it plans to launch in the first weeks of 2022, the digital innovation ministry said on Monday. Known as the National Strategic Hub, the infrastructure is part of the government’s strategy to accelerate digital transformation and guarantee national data security. In its national Recovery Plan sent to Brussels in April, Rome earmarked 900m euros ($1.04bn) for the project.
The ministry said it had received three proposals for the national cloud and identified that prepared by the TIM-led consortium – which includes state lender CDP, defence group Leonardo (LDOF.MI) and government IT agency Sogei – as the one which “fully and satisfactorily reflects the requirements” set by Rome in September.
“It is expected that the call for tenders could be published in the first weeks of 2022, in order to allow the start of the works within the second half of the year,” the ministry added.
While others can submit proposals in line with the parameters set by the TIM-consortium, that project is seen as a clear favourite to win the tender. That consortium also has a right to match any improved rival bid that may be presented. The other two proposals came from a partnership between Italian IT group AlmavivA and cloud provider Aruba and a consortium that includes Italian software developer Engineering and telecoms group Fastweb, a unit of Swisscom (SCMN.S). (Source: Reuters)
23 Dec 21. US Army awards Northrop $1.4bn contract for future battle command system. The U.S. Army awarded Northrop Grumman a $1.4bn contract for both low-rate initial production and full-rate production of its future battle command system, according to a Dec. 23 Pentagon contract announcement.
“This award represents the first significant competition for this major defense acquisition program since the 2009 award of the engineering and manufacturing development contract” to Northrop Grumman, a Dec. 23 Army statement notes.
The service received two bids, according to the DoD announcement. The estimated completion date for the contract is Dec. 22, 2026.
The Army’s Integrated Battle Command System, or IBCS, will link sensors and shooters across the battlefield. It was cleared for production in January 2021.
The program has cost the Army roughly $2.7bn to develop to date and was originally meant to serve only as the command-and-control system for the Army’s future Integrated Air-and-Missile Defense System against regional ballistic missile threats. But the service has since expanded its role to tie together a broad array of sensors and shooters capable of defeating other complex threats, such as cruise missiles and unmanned aircraft.
The program experienced an almost four-year delay and struggled in a 2016 limited user test. But following several soldier checkouts and other test events over the past few years, the system had a successful limited user test in summer 2020.
The system is currently in an initial operational test and evaluation phase expected to wrap up in early 2022.
The program is not only important to the United States but also Poland, the first international customer under contract to purchase the IBCS system for its Patriot batteries.
Under the contract issued Thursday, Northrop will deliver up to 160 systems to the Army and foreign partners, the Army statement notes.
“In partnership with the U.S. Army, Northrop Grumman will deliver IBCS to the warfighter, bringing its critical all domain capabilities to the changing battlefield,” Mary Petryszyn, Northrop Grumman Defense Systems president, said in a Dec. 23 statement sent to Defense News. “It’s also a major milestone in the extension of our open systems architecture approach to JADC2.”
JADC2, or Joint All Domain Command and Control, is the Pentagon’s major effort to connect all sensors on the battlefield to warfighters, enabling faster transfer of data, information, intelligence and communications across platforms and services.
The Army expects to reach a full-rate production decision on IBCS in fiscal 2023. “The contract will enable the program to seamlessly ramp up production to meet Army fielding priorities,” according to the Army statement.
The IBCS program is executed within the Integrated Fires Mission Command portfolio, part of the Army’s Program Executive Office Missiles and Space.
Meanwhile, the Army also on Thursday awarded a $240m contract to Boeing to integrate Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) engines into the AH-64E Apache attack helicopter. The estimated completion date is Dec. 31, 2026.
The Army validated its design for ITEP and a year ago the service was on schedule to deliver the first engine for testing in the fourth quarter of FY21. But due to coronavirus pandemic complications, the Army has pushed that to January 2022.
The service plans to use the next-generation engine in all Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter engines as well as the engines of the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft it plans to field in the 2030s. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
21 Dec 21. New Compact Jamming System ready for F-16s after demonstration flight. In late October 2021 a Danish F-16 conducted a series of flight demonstrations of the Leonardo Compact Jamming System (CJS) integrated in Terma’s ECIPS-pylon. The two companies are now ready to provide the integrated solution to potential customers. Fighter jets like the F-16 have a need for protection and the ability to jam enemy radars. The Leonardo CJS-jammer has a small form factor and incorporates modern Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology, making it the obvious choice to integrate into the Terma modified F-16 Wing Weapon Pylon while still retaining the full use of the underwing station to carry standard external stores.
“ECIPS-CJS provides F-16 operators with a persistent, gold-standard DRFM jamming capability without taking up a weapons station, so it’s ideal for customers looking for a simple and cost-effective way to equip their aircraft with high-powered protection from radar-guided threats,” said Matt Glanville, Head of Strategic EW Campaigns, Leonardo UK.
Both companies have jointly invested and worked together to develop the concept over the last couple of years and during 2021 the system was tested at Terma and Leonardo System Integration Laboratories:
“Having supported the F-16 warfighter community for over 44 years, supplying over 15.000 pylons and 2.500 ALQ-213 EW Controllers, Terma is excited to be working with Leonardo to bring this advanced self-protection capability to the F-16 warfighter”, stated David Martin, Senior Vice President of Terma Aeronautics.
After thorough laboratory tests were passed successfully, the system was put to the ultimate test onboard a Royal Danish Airforce (RDAF) F-16 operated by the test pilot, “POL”. He conducted safety of flight sorties followed by several performance demonstrations against an RDAF radar test site with a challenging ground threat emitter.
Several different techniques were employed, and after the test flight, “POL” stated:
“It has been a very positive experience to be part of the Terma/Leonardo demo programme and I am impressed with the performance of the system, especially since it was the first F-16 flight”.
Terma and Leonardo are now looking forward to discussing more details on the ECIPS-CJS with potential customers.
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