U.S. Navy researchers are developing a state-of-the-art encryption device for integration onto KC-130 tankers and unmanned aerial systems. An existing version of the device is being installed onto B-52 bombers, E-4s, which serve as airborne command centers for the U.S. president and other National Command Authority officials, and E-6s, which are command and control centers for nuclear weapons. The encryption system can be integrated into virtually any platform and offers backward-compatible, software-definable algorithms that can be updated during operations without downtime.
It is that ability to load algorithms without downtime that researchers tout as one of the biggest benefits of the new system. “This is critical for the ability of the warfighter to be able to replace algorithms as they become obsolete. You don’t have to take a platform offline like almost every other crypto out there now,” says Stanley Chincheck, director, Center for High Assurance Computer Systems, Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Washington, D.C. “You can do that while it is up and running. That is a unique feature that many crypto devices just don’t have.”
Chincheck cannot reveal a lot of details because of security concerns, but KC-130s and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will receive the next incarnation of the Programmable Embeddable INFOSEC (Information Security) Product (PEIP, pronounced peep). The version under development is known as PEIP III. The other aircraft—B-52s, E-4s and E-6s—are receiving the current version, PEIP II.