14 April 2013

The five deadly Ds of the Air Force's cyber arsenal

Posted By John Reed 
April 12, 2013

Ever thought the term C4ISR was acronym overkill? Well, here's another doozy. The Air Force's fiscal year 2014 budget request includes $11.3 million to develop tools to do, wait for it, "D5."

D5 stands for "deceive, degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy." No, it's not something an awful child does on the playground; it's what the service wants its cyberweapons to do enemy networks.

Offensive cyber-technologies are being built to allow Air Force cyber operators to secretly infiltrate enemy networks, stay there undetected, steal information, watch what the enemy is doing, resist reverse-engineering should it be discovered, and wreak D5 havoc (cue action-movie music).

Here's what the service's program has achieved so far, as described by the Air Force's budget request:
  • Developed information system access methods and propagation techniques.
  • Developed stealth and persistence technologies and initiated investigation into anti-reverse engineering methods.
  • Developed the capability to exfiltrate information from adversary information systems, developed methods for increased cyber situational awareness and understanding of the battlefield, and developed methods for covert data exchange.
  • Developed technology to deliver D5 (deceive, degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy) effects in concert with cyber platforms.
  • Initiated development of a publish/subscribe architecture for exchange and exfiltration of information while operating within adversary information systems.
What's left to work on in 2014 besides continuing to develop the capabilities listed above? Start developing a "common operating platform" -- the actual computer interface that will allow Air Force cyber-troops to do all of the above.

Lessons from Korean bluster

Apr 12, 2013

The world is presently focused on the threat of a nuclear war being unleashed in the Asia Pacific Region (APR) by North Korea. In the last two decades, an impoverished North Korea has threatened war but has been careful only to target South Korea with artillery bombardment, special forces’ attacks or by attacking a South Korean warship like it did a couple of years ago (a North Korean submarine sank the South Korean warship, CheonAne, in the Yellow Sea). Each time the aim has been to get attention or some additional aid from the international community in the form of energy and food supplies. North Korea has prepared two mobile medium-range ballistic missiles (capable of reaching the islands of Japan and Guam) for test firing on its east coast and may conduct its fourth nuclear test. In addition, it has begun reactivating a civil nuclear reactor, which had been shut down in 2008 as part of an earlier agreement involving food and energy aid.

North Korea has a massive military machine comprising one million men, with another seven million men in reserve and 1,350 ballistic missiles. It also has a very large special forces team which can be deployed for covert operations against bordering South Korea. While North Korean military equipment is of 1970s vintage, the South Koreans have a modern military with 500,000 men, a few 1,000-km range cruise missiles which can target all of North Korea with conventional warheads, and Patriot Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMDS) which can destroy the incoming ballistic missiles in the terminal phase, at ranges up to about 30 kms. Japan — located a few hundred miles away — too has very modern military forces and the Patriot BMDS. In addition, the Americans have 22,000 military personnel in South Korea and military units in Japan.

The US military has a multi-layered BMDS. If and when a North Korean ballistic missile or missiles is/are launched, a satellite picks up its heat (infra red) signature and instantly conveys the information to all American, South Korean and Japanese forces. US Navy Aegis warships operating at sea, off the North Korean coasts, will then track the missiles and destroy them with the 200-mile-range SM-3 missile, either in the initial boost phase (when the missile rises from its launch pad), or later in the cruise phase, when the missile is travelling at high speed outside the earth’s atmosphere, en route to the target.

In case a few missiles escape destruction from the SM-3 missile and are headed for the US naval base at, say, Guam Island, then they can be intercepted by a two-layered BMDS on the island. The outer later is based on the 100-mile range THAAD missile which will intercept and destroy the incoming ballistic missile well outside the earth’s atmosphere. The second layer comprises the 30-km range Patriot BMDS, which will intercept and destroy the incoming missiles inside the earth’s atmosphere.

Needless to mention that any such large-scale missile attack on the US military or Japan or South Korea, will invite massive US retaliation by airstrikes, cruise missiles etc. and result in the early destruction of North Korea’s military capability. This in turn may result in a Chinese military intervention, which could spiral out of control and result in a nuclear war in the APR. Hence, what we are witnessing is a classic example of controlled escalation by North Korea which, being totally dependent on China for its food and energy supplies, will no doubt be restrained by China from initiating out an all out war.

Containing India

Harsh V Pant, April 13, 2013:

China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in mid-1950s, which has only strengthened ever since.

Last month Beijing confirmed its plans to sell a new 1,000 mw nuclear reactor to Pakistan in a deal signed in February. This pact was secretly concluded between the China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission during the visit of the Pakistani nuclear industry officials to Beijing from February 15 to 18. 

This sale would once again violate China’s commitment to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and is in contravention to China’s promise in 2004 while joining the NSG not to sell additional reactors to Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear facility beyond the two reactors that began operation in 2000 and 2011. 

While this issue is likely to come up for discussion at the June meeting of the NSG in Prague, Beijing has already made it clear that nuclear cooperation between China and Pakistan “does not violate relevant principles of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.” This when the CNNC is not merely constructing civilian reactors in Chashma, it is also developing Pakistan’s nuclear fuel reprocessing capabilities and working to modernise Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. 

At a time when concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear programme are causing jitters around the world, China has made its intention clear to go all out in helping Pakistan’s nuclear development. At a time when many in India are contemplating a new bonhomie in Sino-Indian ties under the new Chinese leadership, China is busy trying its best to maintain nuclear parity between India and Pakistan. 

After all, this is what China has been doing for the last five decades. Based on their convergent interests vis-a-vis India, China and Pakistan reached a strategic understanding in mid-1950s, a bond that has only strengthened ever since. Sino-Pakistan ties gained particular momentum in aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war when the two states signed a boundary agreement recognising Chinese control over portions of the disputed Kashmir territory and since then the ties have been so strong that the former Chinese President Hu Jintao has described the relationship as “higher than mountains and deeper than oceans.” 

Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has suggested that “No relationship between two sovereign states is as unique and durable as that between Pakistan and China.” Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. It was Pakistan that in early 1970s enabled China to cultivate its ties with the west and the US in particular, becoming the conduit for Henry Kissinger’s landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and has been instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world. 

Over the years China emerged Pakistan’s largest defence supplier. Military cooperation between the two has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware to the resource-deficient Pakistani army. It has not only given technology assistance to Pakistan but has also helped Pakistan to set-up mass weapons production factories. 

Major role

But what has been most significant is China’s major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, emerging as Pakistan’s benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology from elsewhere. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one.