By David A. Fulghum
Jan 18, 2009
Continuing development of cyber-weapons and experimentation with digital
warfare are triggering optimism and the occasional operational U-turn.
In a few years, the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps expect to be
delivering airborne electronic fires and cyber-attacks for ground troops
with a fusion of radio battalions, EA-6B Prowlers, EA-18G Growlers and a
range of UAVs.
Who actually commands and controls the technology operationally and
strategically remains an open question. The uncertainty was illustrated
by the formation of Air Force Cyber Command, followed by its months-long
pause in bureaucratic limbo and, finally, its re-designation as a
numbered air force under U.S. Strategic Command. The institutional
tangle was compounded because the services have still not produced a
unified plan for electronic warfare and attack. It also contributed to
two failures to get the Air Force back into electronic attack with an
EB-52 long-range (80-100-naut.-mi.) standoff electronic attack aircraft.
The design included the capability to electronically map and attack
"It's not about putting iron on targets anymore; it's about fighting the
networks," says a U.S. EW specialist and senior technology officer. "But
there is the difficulty that no one has owned cyberwarfare in the past.
Now with the massive [cyber] attacks on Estonia and Georgia, it's a real
threat and nobody has the charter [to combat it]."
"The organizations and lines of responsibility are still being worked,"
agrees Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). "Let me be honest,
we're still at the stage of understanding what cyber is.
Cyber-operations broach everything from the tactical to the operational
to the strategic. How it is used determines what it is.
"My opinion is that we need to normalize operations in cyber just as
we've normalized operations in other domains," he says. In an air ops
center, "cyberwarfare ought not to be something in a special box that is
conducted somewhere else. It needs to be part of the equation in
determining a regional contingency plan in equal fashion just like air,
space, maritime and ground components."
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