Tasked with expected challenges to its air and space networks and data traffic, the U.S. Air Force also is seeing an increasing amount of cyberthreats directed at its base infrastructure. The service projects power from its bases, and the cyber attacks it faces there are similar to those aimed at the U.S. critical infrastructure.
The U.S. Air Force science and technology community is returning to a proactive approach to developing transformational technologies. The shifting focus will provide a smoother transitional path for cutting-edge capabilities, get technologies into the hands of warfighters more quickly and help project air power around the globe.
The race is on for one U.S. Air Force directorate to restore the technological edge the service has had over other nations’ militaries. It is funding research into propulsion, power and air vehicles that could produce next-generation scramjet engines, alternative fuels and hypersonic vehicles, to name a few.
Maj. Gen. Burke Edwin Wilson, USAF, commander, 24th Air Force and Air Forces Cyber, offers that the 24th is working with industry “on a plethora of capabilities.” At the top of the list are defensive capabilities, particularly counter-reconnaissance for determining the threats that are coming at Air Force cyber. These include intrusion detection and protection systems, which would be especially useful for meeting the service’s critical infrastructure cyber challenge, he says.
The Air Force is experiencing significant growth in offensive cyber operations, he adds. The service wants to be able to conduct these offensive operations globally.
Growing threats to national security in the space domain have prompted U.S. Air Force leaders to revamp plans and programs to adapt to a new reality of reinforcing system and network resiliency and shifting its people and resources to focus on warfighting functions. Government space capabilities, augmented by commercial systems, will play critical and active roles to secure U.S. and allied interests in and through the increasingly contested domain of space, requiring the Air Force and the Defense Department to proactively plan how to enable more coordinated and integrated space enterprise operations.