Countering sophisticated unmanned systems threats with advanced RF inhibition technology

Writing for Defence Online, Paul Taylor, Business Development Director at Enterprise Control Systems, explores how defence and security teams can keep ahead of growing threats from unmanned systems in the multi-domain environment spanning air (drones), land (ground) and sea (surface).

While Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are far from new technology, never before have they posed such a serious threat to global security. From cutting-edge and long-range systems to homemade devices, UAS or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are no longer exclusive to military and defence teams, but readily available and accessible to the broader population. This has resulted in a steady increase in malicious attacks over the past five years, including the recent drone ambush at a US airbase in Iraq, a similar drone attack in Iran earlier this year, and reports of ‘home-made’ Syrian drones attacking a Russian airbase. We expect to see a growth of malicious UAS capable of delivering harmful payloads or disrupting ground and air operations in conflict-zones, as well as impacting critical national infrastructure as the technology becomes progressively more widespread.

Any unmanned system – air, ground or surface vessel – is challenging to detect using traditional methods, such as satellite, infra-red (IR), electro-optics (EO) or radar, meaning that attacks are more likely to catch targets off-guard or in more vulnerable states. These unmanned systems, given their relatively small sizes, are equally difficult to defeat by traditional methods such as missiles and gun systems. This is where Radio Frequency (RF) inhibition technology comes into play with Electronic Attack (EA) against the Command, Control and Communications (C3) links that unmanned systems require. Not only can sophisticated RF solutions respond to threats today but they’ll deter and counter those plotted for the future. So here’s how RF technology, combined with insight into developing threats, can help defence teams across the world keep one step ahead.

Extended range, directionality and Software Defined Radio (SDR)

RF inhibitors provide signal inhibition of unmanned systems’ C3 links. With increasing mobility, speed and distance capabilities of unmanned devices, countermeasures today require longer-range, specific frequencies, high spectral purity and directional beams to increase chances of defeat and minimise collateral impacts in complex operating environments.

RF countermeasure inhibition techniques have evolved from analogue, through Direct Digital Synthesis (DDS), to the latest Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. SDR sources enable countermeasure systems to keep pace with, and defeat, the ever-evolving specialised C3 links being seen in the unmanned systems domain. An advanced SDR based technique coupled with the directional inhibition ‘beam’ is the key to defeating the most advanced frequency agile and band agile C3 links at the range required to protect against today’s long distance, fast-moving unmanned threats.

At present, drones/UAS continue to be one of the biggest threats to military coalition forces in the Middle East, according to US Central Command. ECS’s Claw RF inhibitor – accredited with over 2,000 UAS defeats and deployed in the 2017 Battle of Mosul – is a prime example of how RF inhibition technology is currently being operated by multiple users, including the US Department of Defence, both Army and Air Force, to counter UAS threats in a number of conflicts and other operational zones.

Focus on agility and usability

Anticipating the next unmanned systems threat is key to developing the next generation of RF inhibitors and developing incremental upgrades and expansion capabilities that can be deployed to existing solutions in the field. This agile approach requires detailed intelligence and analysis from end-users, from industry, and from comprehensively understanding the technology and its potential.

Yet this sophistication must couple with usability; countermeasure devices must incorporate simple control interfaces to be effective. Even the most cutting-edge of technologies would be rendered inefficient if they hindered a teams’ response capability during an attack. RF countermeasure solutions must be designed fully power-efficient and incorporate both stable and dynamically configurable power control. In other words, allowing users to turn the power up or down when needed and guaranteeing the same level of performance across a wide range of extreme environments – from desert to the Arctic.

Ongoing innovation and modularity

Awareness of relevant technology innovation, combined with insight into threat development, is needed to combat unmanned systems threats and to deter and counter future attacks. Designing solutions with knowledge and understanding of the concept of operations leads to a coherent migration path. Clever design modularity, as incorporated in the Claw inhibitor, allows incremental innovations to rapidly and effectively address any changes in the threat.

Counter unmanned systems will ultimately have to form part of every country’s overall strategic defence capability. To stay ahead of threats and solve challenges that teams on the battlefield often don’t yet know they face, defence and security organisations will continue to rely upon manufacturers to understand capabilities, prioritise innovation and develop solutions at pace. For over two decades ECS has partnered with defence organisations to develop and deploy the latest RF technology aimed at mitigating the risks associated with these air, sea and land-borne threats.

Going forward, as UAS and other unmanned attacks continue to evolve, the effectiveness of countermeasure solutions will depend to a large extent upon the ability to understand and foresee the next generation technology that is likely to be deployed to rapidly adapt and advance countermeasure solutions on the battlefield.

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QinetiQ and DSTL redefine wheeled armoured vehicle design

Dstl and QinetiQ have showcased the Mobility Test Rig (MTR), demonstrating the potential functionality and capability of novel mobility solutions.

Imagine breaking away from the traditional picture of slow moving heavy tracked armoured vehicles to lighter, faster, more agile and highly fuel-efficient platforms; designed to operate at very high tempo, well within the enemy’s decision cycle and with increased survivability through agility, terrain access and tactical manoeuvrability.

This is the vision being realised as part of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and its Mounted Combat Systems research project. A key component of that research has been joint activity between Dstl and global integrated defence and security company, QinetiQ.

Focused on research and risk reduction, the programme aims to significantly enhance the mobility of wheeled military vehicles through the introduction of a number of innovative technologies and design approaches.

Future armoured vehicles will need to operate at a much higher tempo if they are to be effective and survivable on the future battlefield, characterised by deep effects and short ‘sensor to shooter’ links.

In this context the advantages of wheeled vehicles over tracks are well known; they provide improved ride, higher speeds, higher reliability and fuel efficiency; however traditionally they have lacked the terrain accessibility of tracked platforms which constrains freedom of movement.

One of the key technologies that enables this approach is electric drive. Dstl and QinetiQ are harnessing this capability, taking advantage of the flexibility it can provide to develop high performance active suspension solutions, which not only have long travel and variable ride height but a geometry that allows the wheel base and track to be altered.

In addition, the exploitation of individual wheel torque control provided by QinetiQ’s hub drive technology and all wheel steering strategies further enhance stability and off road performance. The resulting technology solutions can provide vehicles with some enhanced and even unique capabilities, including:

  • provision of a compact configuration for transportation or operation in urban areas
  • good stability at high speeds or on side slopes
  • enhanced step climbing
  • enhanced gap crossing
  • improved soft soil mobility, especially when operating in convoys
  • stable and low vibration crew and weapon platform
  • ride height that can be optimised for low silhouette or mine stand-off

To demonstrate the potential functionality and capability of novel mobility solutions, Dstl and QinetiQ have built and are progressively upgrading a 1/3 scale 8×8 demonstrator platform – called the Mobility Test Rig (MTR).

The aims of building the rig have been to address the key challenges of suspension and drive control software, sensor performance and maximising off road performance.

The MTR in its current build standard will be on display at QinetiQ’s stand at industry trade show, DSEi (stand H7 – 510). It has fully articulating suspension, QinetiQ electric drive, advanced multi-wheel steer and wheel traction control. Following this showcase, the final stage of fitting sensors and implementing the full active suspension capability will take place.

The MTR has been presented to the British Army and the significant impact on the capability of future land platforms is recognised.

Plans are being discussed to fully exploit the potential of the technology for near term platforms and in the longer for concepts that are starting to be explored as part of Project Mercury.

Mike Sewart, CTO at QinetiQ, explains: “We have been highlighting the importance of Mission-Led Innovation and this is a perfect example of that approach in practice.

“Two years ago we announced this joint research programme. Through a highly focussed programme of innovation, implemented with a clear outcome in mind, in just 24 months we have, alongside a strong ecosystem of partners, designed this demonstrator to showcase how electric drive is a key enabler for future armoured wheeled vehicle success in land environments.”

William Suttie, the Dstl technical lead said: “This project is not just about improving the off road mobility of wheeled platforms but has the potential to transform how future armoured vehicles are designed and used.

“The ability to move quickly and safely across all types of terrain and provide a stable platform so the crew can operate effectively on the move will enhance tempo and operational freedoms and contribute significantly to survivability.”

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Securing the supply chain is essential for a robust defence ecosystem

Writing for Defence Online,  Dennis Mattoon and Michael Mattoli, Co-chairs of the Supply Chain Security Work Group at Trusted Computing Group (TCG), examine the critical role of the defence supply chain.

The nature of threats facing the defense industry have changed considerably over the past decade. As innovation continues to deliver new technologies, the sophistication of attacks has grown, leaving the defence industry worldwide susceptible to attack, particularly within the supply chain.

In fact, a recent report by the US Government suggested the defence industry is increasingly struggling to meet the unprecedented challenges it faces, with industrial security scoring low within their assessment. Within defence, it is particularly important for systems and equipment to be protected at all times, due to the nature of their operations. Here, supply chain attacks can have devastating consequences and so it is imperative that security is tightened to create the most robust defence ecosystem.

No easy feat

Securing the hardware supply chain is essential. It is an area that cannot afford to be overlooked, where one organisation with an inadequate approach to security can open the door for an attack that compromises the entire chain. As such, and especially within the defence sector, it is imperative governments and businesses make supply chain security a priority, to keep mission critical communications and operations safe from espionage or attack. However, this is far from. With so many different elements, and no single entity responsible, it requires the whole industry to come together to implement, define and uphold security measures.

An added twist: to stay competitive, many defence and critical systems leverage commodity hardware. These components often contain vulnerabilities, which are often left unaddressed, in a bid to keep costs low and maintain already thin margins. In a sector where the lowest bidder with the lowest cost often wins contracts for building infrastructure or developing components and equipment, it is important a security agenda is created and followed to ensure a safe and secure defence ecosystem.

To make it more complex, the existing security safeguards in place within the supply chain today are mainly subjective and rely on human intervention. These include the alignment or placement of labels, size, or shape of markings, verifying the authenticity of serial numbers and the use of x-ray imaging. All of these tend to be rather time-consuming and expensive and often do not scale. It has also proven quite difficult to enforce security within this area since the supply chain is increasingly disaggregated and global.

A huge impact

With cybercrime costs worldwide expected to grow by 15 percent per year over the next five years, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, it is imperative steps are taken to safeguard the defence industry and its supply chain. The nature of attacks is changing, costing businesses millions of dollars each year and the loss of priceless information. With increasing dependency on the internet and technology by militaries worldwide, the frequency of sophisticated and organized cyber-attacks is on the rise. When it comes to the defense sector, this cannot become the norm as there is simply too much at stake, especially when state-sanctioned cyber-attacks occur within the supply chain.

The impact of supply chain attacks is well demonstrated by the recent Quanta Computer attack. The Apple supplier was hit by a US$50 million ransomware attack from REvil which caused some disruption, as hackers demanded money in return for not revealing Apple blueprints. As ransomware attacks have become increasingly disruptive and brazen, we cannot allow the defence sector to be subject to such dangerous risks when sensitive information is on the table.

While the Continental Pipeline case shows exactly how important it is to protect critical infrastructure. All pipeline operations had to stop and IT systems had to be frozen as a result of a cyber-attack involving ransomware. Supplying 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel in the US, it is one of the country’s largest pipeline operators as it transports over 100 million gallons of fuel daily from Texas to New York. It caused several fluctuations in the price of fuel as result of supplies becoming partially affected. This demonstrates exactly how bad it could be if defence systems were left open to attack within the supply chain.

Making a difference

For a robust defence sector, it is crucial supply chain security is prioritised. To address all the challenges faced in this area, Trusted Computing Group (TCG) has recently launched a new Supply Chain Security Work Group to lead the charge in developing and creating new security standards and measures for end-to-end solutions. Working with other organisations as well as TCG’s wide range of member companies, the group will aim to define and develop new technologies and safeguards which will enhance the security of the supply chain worldwide.  This is in addition to leveraging existing TCG technologies in this space.

TCG has already released a number of specifications and created innovations that, once applied, make a huge difference to the security of the entire supply chain. The Cyber Resilience technology from TCG is just one example, which enables a device to remain protected throughout its lifecycle. Not only does Cyber Resilience allow for the prevention and detection of malware, but it means a device can be recovered following an attack. This is great for protecting, for example, Internet of Things (IoT) devices or Industrial Control Systems (ICS) which are often used within defense applications. These devices are often difficult to keep updated or maintained and may even be physically inaccessible during its operational lifetime.  Having built-in Cyber Resilience through the supply chain, particularly when being fitted into a larger system or with a long service life, means they remain protected at all times.

Meanwhile, the PC Client Firmware Integrity Measurement (FIM) and PC Client Resource Integrity Manifest (RIM) specifications enable the security status of enterprise systems to be verified and confirmed. It provides guidelines for products that can determine the integrity of a platform within the manufacturing stage and provides a baseline measurement that means security comparisons can be made throughout its lifecycle. This is ideal for the defence sector supply chain as equipment can be evaluated at any time to verify its authenticity and check its security status.

Another example of TCG’s impact on security of the supply chain is its Secure Update Guidelines, which make sure manufacturers and IT administrators can continue to provide safe and secure updates to systems. A common attack vector used by hackers is to infiltrate communication networks or devices through update channels. By making sure this is kept secure, it eliminates this as a potential way in and further protects the supply chain.

Enabling change

However, to truly manifest change, it is important as many groups as possible come together to formulate a security framework to keep the supply chain safe from harm. TCG hopes with its new Supply Chain Security Work Group, to secure industry backing and work collaboratively with other international organizations to lead the way forward for supply chain security. With this in place, it will be possible for actors within the supply chain to demonstrate compliance and security will become enforceable. This will only help to increase security in defence and help ensure that organisations working within the sector do not suffer compromises due to weaknesses in the supply chain or in commodity hardware.

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Getting cybersecurity right in the age of remote work

Writing for Defence Online, Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds, examines the cybersecurity challenges of remote working.

 The pandemic led to a seismic change in working patterns with a near overnight shift to remote work. This shift has created significant cybersecurity challenges for organisations and employers in almost every sector as they implemented a range of technologies to keep them up and running. The defence sector is no exception. If anything, the consequences of a cybersecurity breach in the defence sector may be even more pronounced than for any other industry.

The shift to working remotely dramatically increased the number of attack vectors IT teams had to deal with. Cybersecurity policies and practices were stretched beyond their original purpose to try and cover more locations, more devices, and more connections into the central network and data. Cybercriminals, malicious actors, and hackers were presented with a broader range of targets spread across a wider landscape with varying degrees of protection.

Nearly every industry has experienced an acceleration in high-level cybersecurity breaches and faced potential risks from incomplete security policies and procedures during the pandemic. The upheaval it caused should serve as a catalyst for organisations to scrutinise their exposure to IT risk of all kinds—particularly risk from remote, distributed work—and how prepared they are to manage, mitigate, and prevent risk in the future.

The findings of the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2021: Building a Secure Future reveal the change in organisational structure during COVID-19 to facilitate remote work as a major concern for overall risk exposure. A fifth of public sector tech pro respondents (18%) flagged remote work policies as a major associated risk-inducing factor. Remote working also gave rise to concerns over the exponential growth of data as a result of new working from home and the potential risks from distributed workforce/employee relocation.

The implications for security haven’t gone entirely unnoticed. Fifteen percent of respondents said the accelerated shift to working remotely was the number one aspect of their current IT environments increasing their risk exposure, followed closely by incomplete or inadequate security policies (13%).

Understanding Cybersecurity Risks

Countering these threats and challenges requires several changes and improvements. First and foremost, defence organisations need to develop a greater awareness of the cybersecurity risks they face. This requires a better understanding of the IT environment to help them uncover the areas of risk, which has been made harder by the changes to the nature of the IT environment caused by remote working. Unfortunately, some organisations across all sectors still don’t appreciate the extent of the cybersecurity risks confronting them.

The reality is, many may be more exposed to cybersecurity risks today because they were under pressure to ensure optimised, secure performance for remote workforces but had only limited time and resources to achieve this goal. The danger is the risk could be compounded by apathy and complacency over how prepared they are to mitigate those threats after a year of operating in pandemic-driven “crisis mode.”

There are several things that can be done to help address the cybersecurity risks facing organisations in all sectors as they create their post-pandemic working models.

They can improve visibility into the network and protect the broader attack surface from remote working by integrating security systems. Organisations can help keep employees safe from malicious threats by using applications and devices with built-in security and making robust security settings the default option for applications they develop themselves.

Automation and AI are Key Factors

Automation can be an effective means for organisations to overcome limited personnel and resources to continuously monitor for threats and improve cyber protections. This could include tools to scan web applications from the outside to look for security vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, command injection, path traversal, and insecure server configuration. But without people, tools can be ineffective. For example, if a possible threat is detected, relevant information needs to be shared across the organisation, so everyone can take steps to minimise risk.

As we look to a world beyond the pandemic, AI/machine learning, and automation could become key areas for investment and upskilling. More than a third (35%) of public sector respondents to the SolarWinds IT Trends Report 2021 ranked AI/machine learning as one of the top three technologies most critical to managing and mitigating risk within their organisations, only slightly behind security and compliance on 40%.

Putting People First

Nevertheless, it’s important to acknowledge the first defence against cyberattacks for any organisation is its employees because most of the risk is targeted at them and designed to exploit their behaviour. This clearly has the potential to be even more of a concern with so many working remotely and in isolation from the organisation.

To navigate the post-pandemic reality, organisations need to examine current processes from the outside in and deploy IT solutions providing comprehensive visibility into systems to identify areas of risk and opportunity. Even small changes like faster upgrades and patches, and the use of password managers and multi-factor authentication solutions, can strengthen an organisation’s overall security posture.

It’s also important to recognise the hybrid IT reality created by the pandemic, where fragmented policy, configuration, visibility, and threat surfaces reach from on-premises data centres to the cloud, IoT, and beyond. Against this backdrop, organisations need to ensure there’s a strong sense of aversion to any level of risk exposure. Across all sectors, particularly defence, they need to be prepared for worst-case scenarios if they want their defences to be as strong as possible.

The best way to achieve this is to have a clear understanding of their IT environments, so they can counter and mitigate the cybersecurity threats ranged against them. Knowledge and awareness are still two of the most important weapons in the battle against cybercriminals, hackers, and malicious actors.

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It’s time to put ED&I into Defence’s DNA

Robust equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) initiatives and policies have the power to deliver numerous benefits, but there is much more we need to do within the Defence sector. Here is where we can start, says Neha Bhasin, Atkins’ Defence and Security Consultant.

In the workplace, people with different experiences, and from different backgrounds, bring new and distinctive ideas. Organisations benefit from the diverse skills and talents drawn from the wider society in which we live. Diversity in the workplace also links directly to increased profitability; a fact that’s been well-documented by global management consultancies for more than 50 years.

In a 2017 study of 1,700 companies by Boston Consulting Group, companies with above-average leadership diversity reported innovation revenue of 45% by comparison with those with below-average leadership diversity, at 26%. As this article in Forbes states: “Companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams were 33% more likely to see better-than-average profits.”

An organisation that is inclusive will also attract and retain the best talent, which boosts the inherent value of its collective workforce. Also, diversity in the workplace is something that employees are increasingly placing more value on. For the Defence sector, which thrives on collaboration and competition, the increased innovation and cultural awareness that diversity brings should be seen as a vital element to forging good relations, supporting healthy business development, and providing UK plc with a competitive advantage.

So, what does the ED&I picture look like across our sector? Sadly, we are lagging behind: Defence has often been singled out for its lack of ED&I commitments. The Armed Forces were set a target in 2016 to increase female personnel to 15% and Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) personnel to 10% of their total intake by 2020. In 2020, these numbers stood at only 12.6% for female personnel and 11.7% for BAME personnel, the BAME target being met largely attributed to a change in policy which removed the five-year residency criteria for up to 1,350 personnel per year.

The Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, stated in a Daily Telegraph article in 2020 that: “Defence has often been slow to recognise the value of diversity” and the  Ministry of Defence (MOD) also recognises there is much to do, stating in its Defence Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2018-2030: “Becoming more diverse and inclusive is not just the right thing to do for individuals, it is central to Defence’s ability to protect the nation’ whereby Defence should reflect the society it is working to defend.”

LGBTQ+ representation rates are also alarmingly low, with recent media coverage highlighting ongoing issues for LGBTQ+ people, as well as increased reports of racism, sexual harassment and bullying within the MOD and the Armed Forces.

It’s a similar picture for the wider Defence industry, too. A study by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) exploring the value of Defence jobs in the UK found that positions were predominantly filled by men, with only 17.5% of UK Defence business jobs held by women in 2017. Defence companies are also dependent on STEM-based expertise for certain roles – disciplines that have long been male-dominated.

We do know that fewer than average Defence companies and organisations conduct or take part in ED&I data collection or surveys – so without complete and consistent data, how can we expect to benchmark progress? Here is where we can start. First, by engaging employees in dialogue, listening to responses, and asking them what they think.

For example, how important is ED&I for them in the workplace?? Do they feel they have the opportunity to speak about ED&I challenges? Is their organisation doing enough in their view on ED&I? We asked our own employees and contacts working in the Defence sector these questions, revealing that ED&I was important to most individuals (overall score of 8 out of 10), however many felt not enough was being done in their respective organisations (overall score of 4 out of 10).

We must also enact change from the top down, putting in place senior-level accountability, and we need to start working together to identify problems and share information and best practice across our industry. That means for example establishing a pan-Defence ED&I network to collaborate on joint initiatives and signing the Women in Defence Charter and actively participating in its drive to “deliver an environment where women can be authentically themselves”. Crucially, we must establish a baseline to capture data, improve transparency and have the benchmarking tools to help us start charting upward progress. We have to come together to move the dial.

We must also train and develop our employees; and take them with us. For example, delivering unconscious bias training, ensuring there’s advocacy amongst leadership with Senior Business Sponsors for ED&I, and reverse-mentoring schemes to improve inter-generational understanding by openly recognising that we all come to work with varied backgrounds, experiences, and cultures.

It’s time for the Defence sector to start committing to these kinds of actions. Strong ED&I practices create better workplaces and drive innovation and collaboration that’s essential for the Defence sector to thrive. When we start on this path to positive change in earnest, it will only serve to strengthen us.

ED&I: the longer read

If you’d like to read more about Atkins’ ED&I journey and the research project that we undertook in 2020 to snapshot our starting point, check out Neha’s whitepaper Diversity in Defence.

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Decarbonisation: How defence can get ahead of the game

Writing for Defence Online, Howard Lungley, Sustainability Lead at Frazer-Nash Consultancy, proposes that defence’s drive towards decarbonisation offers it exciting opportunities for innovation.

Decarbonisation will, over the next few decades, be the biggest driver of technology the world has ever seen. For the Ministry of Defence, a focus on the future horizon will be essential if it is to benefit from new technologies.

The world is moving faster and faster. It used to be possible to keep up with current affairs, technology developments and maybe even have time to read a book. But with so many advances in scientific technology, it’s now almost impossible to keep pace. And this poses a major challenge for a sector such as defence, which needs to be at the forefront of change to ensure its essential tools are fit for purpose. There are major risks in failing to keep up with technological advances: from the spiralling costs of maintaining legacy assets, to less-effective responses to threat actors, to the loss of Britain’s reputation on the world stage.

Compounding this challenge is the fact that we’re at a tipping point, where environmental imperatives are shaping technology. We have just ten years to halve global emissions1 and, rather like turning a big tanker around, it’s not something you can do just overnight. The steps we’re taking towards net zero are going to change everything: the vehicles we drive, the way in which we work, even the ways in which we communicate with people.

Decarbonisation as a driver of opportunity

What’s becoming apparent, however, is that the Ministry of Defence needs to embrace decarbonisation, because over the next few decades it is going to be the biggest driver of technology that we’ve ever seen. There are huge opportunities for defence in taking advantage of the next generation of technology. It can enable improved capabilities, improved efficiencies and even improved competitiveness. If you’re getting a brand-new low-carbon vehicle, for example, you’re not just getting a low-carbon vehicle, you’re getting a new vehicle. By the very fact that manufacturers have learnt from past vehicles, and understand what changes are needed to make them better, the new generation will offer enhancements and improvements. Electric vehicles, for example, including electric drones, have a reduced noise profile, so could potentially benefit surveillance activities; while sustainably produced hydrogen could not only drive naval ships, but the surplus energy produced could be used to power equipment at dockyards and ports.

Solar, wind, tidal and other generation sources, with their low carbon emissions, will contribute to defence decarbonisation and could potentially help to deliver self-sufficient remote bases. The energy these technologies produce could be used to power water filtration and food production systems, and even to recycle and repurpose waste materials into new products using 3D printing. With a huge supply chain geared towards supplying diesel to remote bases at present, sometimes via very difficult supply routes, using renewable technologies would not only remove those involved in that supply chain from danger, but also reduce the risk of the base’s energy supply being cut off.

Breaking down siloes

But to get ahead of the game – and even just to keep up – all organisations, including the Ministry of Defence, are continually going to have to horizon-scan. They will need to actively look at how environmental issues will lead to global shifts, both for humanity and for their organisation, including the potential impacts of climate change; and they will need to equally actively make the changes essential to meet these challenges. By scanning for new environmental technology options, and pursuing its interest, influence and investment in those that could provide novel future capability (and help meet sustainability goals), defence will ensure that it maximises the forces’ potential.

In this evolving world though, using the same old methods just isn’t going to work, so defence will need to break down any siloed structures separating its pools of knowledge internally, and draw on best practice from across and outside its domain. Siloes, and barriers to sharing knowledge and making decisions, will slow the forces down, at a time when they need to be taking action quickly. A huge culture change will be required to meet defence’s decarbonisation ambitions, and its current siloed nature will stand in the way of progress. Just as the army’s digital transformation programme, THEIA, is aiming to change culture and behaviours around digitisation, a cross-forces commitment to working together to solve the challenges of climate is essential. It’s time to re-engineer the defence siloes into a modern and agile workforce that can learn, adapt and be proactive in addressing the future problems it faces. Central to this change, of course, are people, so mapping key stakeholders across all sectors of defence, and their role in the wider system and organisation, could help identify the barriers and enablers to success. Only by bringing everyone along on the journey will MOD deliver long-lasting behavioural change. In this mission, there’s no alternative but to be on the front foot.

Innovation, of course, does come with inherent risks. So, how can defence leaders ensure they are making the right decision at the right time? Well, the military invented the notion of scenario planning, and it’s an approach that can work just as well in the mission for decarbonisation as on the battleground. There are going to be many possible futures: using scenario planning will enable defence to envisage a whole range of potential future technological solutions to decarbonisation, be they sustainable fuels like hydrogen, reduction strategies like carbon capture, or novel generation technologies, such as space solar power.

Whilst many factors may combine in complex ways to create sometime surprising futures (due to non-linear feedback loops), systems thinking can be used in conjunction with scenario planning to demonstrate the causal relationship between factors, and to arrive at plausible story lines. Modelling and simulation offer a powerful addition to scenario planning, by providing a way to ‘game’ the future scenarios and uncover any unintended consequences of potential strategies. By simulating and modelling the consequences that could arise from taking different

actions within scenarios, defence leaders will be empowered to make decisions today, and tomorrow, that are robust to many uncertain futures.

Following fast

While scenario planning can help the sector to understand the outcomes of a range of decisions, it’s not enough to decide what kinds of technology defence is likely to choose, and then wait for those to be ready for adoption. To be an ‘early adopter’ or a ‘fast follower’ isn’t a passive experience – you can’t just stand still and wait. The forces will have to work hard to ensure their organisations are ready for the new technology. If a defence force wanted to roll out a fleet of electric vehicles – tanks for example – it could take two years or longer before suitable vehicles could be developed to meet its needs. Those two years will be essential though, to put in the effort to get the organisation ready to adopt them – changing internal processes, planning infrastructure changes, and ensuring stakeholder buy-in is gained. Rather than starting the journey later, defence needs to get ready so there is no delay in adopting technology as soon as it becomes available.

In effect, it is less about ‘technology readiness’, which is used to define how mature a new technology is, it is more about how mature the organisation is, in readiness for the new technology. Defence already needs to be on the cutting-edge for its equipment, information-gathering and weaponry – now it needs to extend that readiness for innovation out into a much broader field: to ask questions like, ‘how do we heat our buildings sustainably?’ and ‘how do we decarbonise our means of moving around the training estate?’.

Policy for the longer-term

The UK government has set very ambitious decarbonisation targets: both Net Zero 2050 and the interim target for a reduction in emissions by 78% by 2035. With the launch of its 10-point plan, it is now more likely to introduce policies that will incentivise low carbon technology, and disincentivise carbon consumption. So, a base’s wind turbine or solar panels could potentially benefit from new economic policies on taxation, or grants; while carbon-intensive, diesel-using technologies might even be penalised. Just as with scenario planning however, government will need to make sure that any policy that it creates around decarbonisation is evidence-based and data driven and that it doesn’t have unintended consequences – and this can be where policy sometimes falls short. Again, modelling and simulation can offer a cost-effective solution to help government assess the impact of its proposed policies. These tools can be used to help government to optimise the combination and timings of its investments (real options analysis), to visualise the best solution, and to produce an evidence base to demonstrate it can effectively deliver its planned aims.

With finite budgets, cost will always be a consideration for the defence sector. But while the initial outlay to deliver decarbonisation will require a degree of capital investment, defence needs to avoid adopting a short-term mindset. If the payback period of a solar installation, for example, is seven years, a short-term view may see

that as too long, and choose instead to invest in projects with a payback of two years. But comparing the lifetime cost of the projects, by the organisation generating its own energy in the long-term, the solar installation could pay back much more over a longer period. (As in the example at Figure 1, below, which compares investment in a broadsheet advertisement against solar panels.)

With decarbonisation a critical mission, for both the forces and for the planet, defence will need to ensure it keeps a focus on the net zero future horizon. But as it prepares for and adopts technologies that enhance its capabilities, it will reap many benefits along the way.

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How can the Defense Industrial Base better protect against cybersecurity weaknesses in the supply chain?

Writing for Defence Online, Thomas Lind, Co-Head of Strategic Intelligence at BlueVoyant, examines how the US defence industrial base can best meet the challenges posed by cyber threats.

Securing the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) is a key national security objective of the United States. The task is challenging: it means securing a multi-tiered, interlinking supply chain hundreds of thousands of companies long, ranging from machine shops of a few dozen employees to billion-dollar prime contractors. 

In an attempt to assess and support the cybersecurity posture of the defence sector, BlueVoyant recently undertook an analysis of companies in the defense industrial base. Building on research carried out by researchers at Michigan State University and our own insights gleaned from CMMC consulting, we focused on small-to-medium size enterprises (SMEs) as a critical and overlooked component of supply chain resilience. Looking at cybersecurity posture, threats, and compromise, our analysis found evidence of vulnerabilities across our sample set. However, BlueVoyant research also shows that securing the DIB is a tractable problem. With the right combination of CMMC regulations, cybersecurity monitoring, and support from government, the DIB can be made much stronger and resilient than it is now.

This issue is critical. Businesses in the DIB are high-value targets for nation-state adversaries and other cybercriminals. Today, the news is awash with examples of how these third-party attack strategies have been successful: in the last year alone, cyber attacks exploiting Microsoft Exchange, F5, Pulse Secure, and, of course, SolarWinds have all impacted U.S. defence networks. At the same time, opportunistic ransomware attacks have also risen in frequency and impact, and just last year we reported attacks on US contractors who had been hit by the Babuk, Ryuk, maze and DoppelPaymer ransomware groups.

Securing the DIB is not only a pressing issue for greater national security: it is also eminently possible. BlueVoyant’s recent report, Defense Industry Supply Chain and Security, seeks to support policymakers and defence contractors in shaping a stronger and more resilient cybersecurity posture.

Adversaries pivot to target SMBs

Arguably, defence contractors face the same opportunistic threats as any business, however, the DIB’s biggest problem is the complexity of securing such an enormous ecosystem. Since the first cyber intrusions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, prime contractors and other large companies have developed more robust security defences against cyberattacks. As a result, adversaries have pivoted towards targeting small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are subcontractors within the same supply chain. This attack strategy is based on the expectation that SMEs will have fewer and less sophisticated defences and will thus provide an easier entry point to all entities within the entire supply chain.

Knowing this, BlueVoyant undertook a review of the cybersecurity risk posture within the DIB. To do so, we chose a sample set of 300 companies, avoiding primes and other giant defence contractors and instead limiting the pool entirely to SMEs. In a total industrial base of some 100,000 companies (or more, according to some estimates), three hundred companies is not large enough to identify reliable patterns but large enough to observe statistically significant insights into overall supply chain security. We examined the companies for vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity posture; for evidence of targeted threat activity; and for evidence of compromise. The analysis also sought to identify patterns or trends in risk, in hopes to illuminate how risk is concentrated (or not) within a supply chain – and thus help primes and the DoD to direct their resources and attention in future.

We arrived at two key insights. One, our findings indicate that significant issues exist within our sample set, suggesting wider issues across SMEs in the DIB: just under half (48%) of all companies analysed had critical cybersecurity vulnerabilities, 20% (one-fifth) had critical vulnerabilities and evidence of significant, intentional threat targeting, and 7% showed critical vulnerabilities, evidence of significant, intentional threat targeting, and also had evidence of potential compromise. Overall, vulnerabilities to ransomware were widely observed throughout the group, especially unsecured remote ports known to be the major route of access for ransomware gangs.

Two, we found that industry type was a stronger predictor of risk than company size alone: manufacturing and R&D companies had the highest risk profiles when assessing email security, IT hygiene, malicious activity and vulnerabilities. 100% of the large R&D companies assessed displayed network vulnerabilities, with 66% of these companies also showing evidence of targeting.

Espionage and intellectual property threats are also increasing

This comes at a time of significant pressure on defence companies. Advanced persistent foreign actors have targeted the DIB for years for the purposes of espionage and intellectual property threats; in the last year, they have achieved significant success, and that in the public eye. In October 2020, the NSA issued an advisory noting that Chinese APT groups were exploiting vulnerabilities in Pulse Secure VP and F5 Networks’ cybersecurity software to target defense contractors, and in April this year these groups were reportedly exploiting another software vulnerability to attack defence contractors with vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange services.

To this point, just under half of the companies that we examined had ports vulnerable to ransomware, as well as other severe vulnerabilities. This included unsecured data storage ports, out-of-date software and OS, and other vulnerabilities rated severe to NIST frameworks.

Furthermore, 7% of the companies analysed showed critical vulnerabilities and evidence of targeted threat activity, and evidence of compromise. Additionally, more than six months after the F5 and Microsoft Exchange vulnerabilities were announced, several companies were still observed with these vulnerabilities on their networks.

CMMC and other regulations are being implemented

In order to address these issues, a series of government regulations have set standards designed to raise the baseline of cybersecurity requirements. Most recently, in 2019 the DoD announced that they were launching the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) as an expansion of, and improvement upon, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). CMMC is designed to help apportion compliance and responsibility in appropriate measures throughout a complex ecosystem and to also ensure third party verification and controls are in place. However, our research found that more than a quarter (28%) of companies analysed showed evidence indicating they would fail to meet the most basic, tier-1 CMMC requirement.

Perpetual monitoring and management is required

Regulations will certainly help to reduce the attack surface, but compliance is not security. Regulations are typically measured at points in time and are therefore not necessarily synonymous with ongoing effective cybersecurity. Without a doubt, compliance is a key first step towards baseline security – but more is needed. How can organisations create a secure environment for defence companies while also supporting the development of a large and diverse ecosystem? How can they close the gap that exists with these periodic point-in-time assessments and deliver more ongoing monitoring and management of the systems security throughout an entire supply chain? Often smaller firms do not have the resources and budgets to deal with increasing, targeted cyberattacks.

Going forward, continuous cybersecurity monitoring should be a key component for defence companies to secure their supply chain. Here prime contractors can reduce their risk exposure by focusing on the most high-risk segments of their supply chain. Our research highlighted that R&D companies are particularly vulnerable targets for malicious insertion in the supply chain and focusing on them can reduce risk to all segments. Additionally, predictive analysis is possible based on quantitative measures, and can provide the DoD and prime contractors with findings to help them identify and more effectively manage risk. BlueVoyant is undertaking more advanced research, in cooperation with Michigan State University’s top-rated supply chain management program, to see if more reliable predictive measures are possible.

Focusing on supply chain health

For an industry with such an expansive, interconnected digital ecosystem, supply chain security should be a fundamental consideration. Prime contractors are under enormous pressure to reduce the attack surface of the entire supply chain, but are partly blind to the vulnerabilities that exist. Smaller companies need to put more attention and resources into identifying ongoing risks and understanding overall supply chain health in order to combat the growing threat landscape.

The good news is that the two recent Executive Orders – one on American Supply Chains, and the other on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity – direct much-needed attention and funding to cybersecurity in the defence supply chain, but they are only the start. Closer co-operation between the DoD and the private sector is required to support a more vibrant, diverse, and secure defence sector.

Just as threats are evolving, so too are the conditions that shape the US defence industry, and the sector is increasingly introducing commercial technologies and acquisition practices that have the potential to disrupt and change the traditional defence contractor business model for the better. Organisations need to put in place accessible compliance frameworks, robust and proactive risk tracking, continuous external monitoring – all of these steps will support a more secure defence sector and are absolutely achievable with closer co-operation between the DoD and the public sector.

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The Three Pillars of Effective Automation

Writing for Defence Online, Sascha Giese, Head Geek at SolarWinds, examines how businesses can make the best use of automative processes.

 Most IT professionals across the defence sector will be familiar with the role of automation as a mainstay of technology strategy for many years. What’s changed recently, however, is the potential automation increasingly offers to transform more complex IT processes, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.

While it’s tempting to apply a broad brush to automating IT processes, many organisations find a more focused approach delivers more effective performance. In defining a practical approach to automation that delivers a responsive and intuitive IT system, it’s important to start with a framework based around three key considerations.

Automate the Right Processes

Processes are central to the way every organisation works, but in the technology context, overloading defence IT teams with potential automation projects risks introducing new problems that may otherwise not be present.

For instance, managing an overwhelming volume of tasks is likely to be labour-intensive, and when many can only be accomplished via manual means, it’s more likely to result in mistakes, added staff costs, and system downtime. In the defence sector, none of these can be risked.

Before identifying the IT processes most suitable for automation, it’s important to restrict the number of “candidates.” A useful approach is to examine the IT processes currently used and determine which could be removed. This gives IT teams the chance to eliminate outdated processes and IT assets, such as applications or idle servers, adding further efficiency gains.

Next, assess the scope for combining multiple processes into one—especially for tasks performing similar functions on multiple compatible assets. Not only can this provide an immediate boost in productivity, but it can also deliver maintenance and support savings. It also gives the automation team a smaller list to work from, cutting the amount of time necessary to identify the manual processes that can be translated into automated tasks.

Remove Manual Processes 

Armed with a concise list of candidate processes needed to manage the IT stack, defence IT teams then have a starting point for a key step in the overall process—eliminating manual processes.

Although some manual processes won’t qualify for automation, there will likely be sufficient processes to deliver valuable cost savings and release resources to work on more strategic projects. In some cases, effective process automation may also reduce the need to hire additional staff, while simultaneously giving new development opportunities for those people already on the team.

Don’t forget, any cost savings are dependent on the number of manual processes that can be automated, and while it might be tempting to include some more risky, borderline automation-friendly processes, it’s sensible to avoid options that may introduce higher risk variables.

Don’t Automate for the Sake of It 

Automation should only be applied to processes or tasks where there’s sound business or operational justification—don’t invest time and effort for the sake of it or to tick the automation box. For instance, there are almost endless possibilities for potential points of automation, from patching, asset management, software metering, and security monitoring to reporting, provisioning, and data management—all of which can potentially make a good case for areas in the IT stack where you’ll see an increase in efficiency when automation is used.

Focusing on a tight set of priorities will also ensure important tasks are being regularly and consistently executed using strictly determined specifications. Add to this the potential offered by automating support tasks and functions, and it can help defence organisations improve issue response times with highly accurate resolutions.

Specifically, implementing automation in the support area can deliver better ITIL-based workflows and automatic escalation conditions, while the ability to employ artificial intelligence (AI) can help build self-healing systems. Together, these lessen the chances of an extended, unplanned outage and play an important part in keeping automation cost savings intact.

Ultimately, successful IT teams are defined by an ability to quickly deliver reliable services without interruption. But as part of this objective, automating IT processes will help build a strong platform from which to provide responsive and intuitive IT systems and to create a support structure to optimise systems with minimal additional cost. Striking a balance between an automation strategy that doesn’t overburden the IT team and delivering tangible impact will ideally place defence organisations to reap the benefits.

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Cyber security: what’s your first line of defence?

Writing for Defence Online, Matt Smith, Chief Technology Officer at BCN Group, says that while the defence sector is pushing boundaries to protect others, organisations and businesses in the industry are not doing enough to protect themselves against cyber security threats

Those in the defence sector are at the cutting edge of protecting governments, organisations and businesses in countries around the world. But those operating in the space are not necessarily applying the same levels of protection to their own institutions.

Defence organisations must understand that a single cyber security solution is not sufficient when it comes to mitigating the risks they face today; attacks are becoming more sinister and sophisticated and are increasing in volume and duration.

To push back against attacks and disarm hackers, defence organisations must undertake digital transformation and deploy modern workplace solutions to go beyond simply upgrading and optimising IT systems and processes for time and cost saving purposes.

Modern workplace solutions are all about overhauling fundamental business functions and using IT products and services to operate more seamlessly, efficiently and securely. This is certainly the case for organisations with a global presence and a with a mix of office and home-based working.

What we mean by modern workplace solutions:

Modern workplace solutions are advanced IT products, applications and services that support the day to day running of a business. Organisations constantly face new challenges and threats – Covid-19 and the rise in DDoS attacks – and these solutions ensure they can adapt, survive and thrive.

Defence businesses that have not undertaken digital transformation struggle to adapt to changes which can expose them to greater risk. Not only that, but it can also mean they are not in a position to leverage any opportunities that might emerge.

Let me explain by way of example.

A defence business may find that the markets it is in suddenly become regulated or it may want to expand into markets that are tightly governed. Data sovereignty laws in these markets can differ and, in some cases, organisations might be required to have servers located in that country

Businesses that have undertaken digital transformation will already have IaaS, PaaS and SaaS solutions in place. These modern, cloud-based technologies provide unparalleled agility, allowing rapid change and enabling businesses to meet regulatory requirements in any market.

Widows Virtual Desktop is the solution we recommend as it is a best of breed VDI solution that brings together IaaS and PaaS to deliver a secure, familiar desktop for employees to access apps, files, data and communications. What’s more, this can be done from any device and location.

Such technologies are available to defence organisations and businesses of all sizes. They are subscription based and allow hyper scale growth without the need for large capex investment or complex, lengthy deployment times.

How modern workplace solutions help mitigate cyber threats:

There are several benefits of migrating to Windows Virtual Desktop, including a more seamless and collaborative way of working no matter where your employees are located. But the most significant upsides are regarding system, data and communication security.

Windows Virtual Desktop is unrivalled in the protections it offers. This is due in part to the way it uses artificial intelligence and machine learning. For example, AI is used to track where users are located and the devices they are using.

This means that if an employee tries to log-in from an unknown or unapproved IP, such as a coffee shop, shared workspace or public WiFi connection, additional layers of security will be activated before they can successfully log-in.

A second example is impossible travel rules; if an employee logs-in from their smartphone in the UK and then logs-in from their laptop ten minutes later in Germany, a security warning is triggered. This warning can be sent the CIO so they can evaluate the situation and take action.

Another element is Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which enables complete control of the devices connecting to your network. Only approved devices can access Windows Virtual Desktop whether working from the office or home.

This gives the business a lot more control and far greater insights over user authentication and where systems, apps, files and data are being accessed from. With human error the biggest cyber security vulnerability, this significantly reduces the risk of falling victim to an attack.

With the volume and duration of cyber attacks only set to rise, defence organisations must take action now to better protect themselves. Digital transformation and modern workplace solutions are the best way of doing this as they also allow organisations to unlock additional efficiencies.

Some defence businesses have already undertaken digital transformations and are able to significantly reduce the risk of a successful cyber security attack, but can you say the same for you and your organisation?

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The PACE method: Where its falling short, and what we can do about it

Writing for Defence Online, Tim Williams, Business Development Manager, QinetiQ, discusses battlefield communications and the need for increased investment to fully achieve the PACE method.

Command and Control (C2) communications are inherently complex, but also unavoidably essential, meaning in depth planning is always needed to establish them. And when implementing them in regions where the quality of network infrastructure is low, the task only increases in difficulty. This was particularly the case during the 80s and early 90s when technology was not as advanced and resourcing a comprehensive PACE (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency) plan was almost completely unachievable. Contingency communications were restricted to local infrastructure, such as a public telephone box (which were not always readily available) and there was a complete lack of emergency communications.

Whilst the digital revolution has resulted in more complex, data driven communication systems, teams are still hindered by an over reliance on Primary and Alternate plans. To deliver assured communications in operational theatres, steps must be taken to improve the quality of Contingency and Emergency systems for those on the battlefield.

How it worked in 1990s Bosnia

During my military career, I was deployed to Bosnia in the early 90s as part of the UN Protection Force. We were based in Sarajevo, where there was a need for area wide very high frequency (VHF) coverage to support the varying types of operations. To achieve this, it was estimated that three rebroadcast sites would need to be established. Generally, the higher up the rebroadcast station is, the better coverage it will provide. These types of installations typically also require both electrical power and physical security. Sarajevo is surrounded by mountains and many of them had friendly forces holding positions on top of them. We knew these forces could provide the necessary security and options for power, but we needed to confirm which of the available sites would provide the coverage required. Requiring us to visit and test from those locations.

Once we set off, we were isolated and at risk almost immediately as we were out of communications range of the HQ within minutes. To get to the first site required a four-hour drive, navigating crater filled roads, indiscriminate small arms fire and continuous faction checkpoints. Failing to reach the summit site within two hours from a physical check in site, would’ve meant HQ making a decision on whether to send out a search party. To put this in perspective, there is a ‘golden hour’ rule that is applied to the first hour after a serious injury has occurred, where prompt effective emergency care can mean a difference between surviving or not. If something happened to us on the route up to the top, it could have been three hours before anybody found us.

The impact of terrain on Primary resilience

Among the many things learned on this deployment, what became evidently clear was the impact of a terrain on primary communications. Consequently, after successfully installing one communication link back to HQ, upon entering into the next valley all communications ceased. This was the case in each valley, until entering Sarajevo again where the coverage improved. The process then began again as we headed to the second mountain site to install further range extension equipment. As can happen, technical faults can easily affect communications equipment, and maintenance requires regular trips between communication sites which could be two to three times a week. This would be mitigated by the availability of an Alternate system, had we had one.

The lack of suitable contingency systems in Bosnia compounded by the other challenges we faced during the tour demonstrate the difficulties and risk with setting up communications infrastructure in a war-torn country. Whilst every operational theatre presents its own unique challenges, from my experience, each suffered the same lack of assurance and minimal solutions to fall back on once the Primary and Alternate systems failed.

Today’s communications systems aren’t always fit for purpose

Disappointingly, whilst today’s Combat Net Radio systems are more digitised and more complex, they still often lack the versatility to deliver vital capability across the myriad of operational deployments.

Most of today’s Combat Net Radio systems were designed to support a formation (like a brigade or division) moving in battle. Rather than to support every type of operational scenario and certainly not the large percentage of operations that forces are deployed on today. The threat to security has changed significantly over the last 15 years driving a different approach, but very little has changed in how we communicate in the field. Although there is a need for this type of system to support general war or large scale campaigns, they are not the most common type of deployment. The most common tend to be smaller scale, where units are operating in remote areas without any communications infrastructure. Meaning, in essence, forces deploying on operations do so with suboptimal systems.

The Primary shortfall

The difficulty found with the slow progress to improve C2 infrastructure, is the continued reliance on Primary communications. When fully functional, this system provides operations staff with the tools they need to plan and prosecute the military tasks bestowed upon them. However, they will only provide limited coverage, in some cases covering just tens of miles away from base. This drives a need to install additional infrastructure to enable range extension – which adds further complexity. For example, if you require communications to support the deployment of troops to establish the lay of the land and de-risk future operational tasks in the theatre, you first need to deploy some sort of communications infrastructure. This scenario is based upon an environment where mobile phone networks are not functioning or use of them can create their own inherent security risk. In this case, the troops implementing an infrastructure do so at high risk and do not have supporting communications during the process until a network is established.

Finding the solution

As it takes many years to develop and bring a new core military Primary and Alternate system into service there will always be the challenge of evolving with the rate of development in technology.  This means that it is difficult to develop communication capabilities to counter the new types of threats made possible by the advancement of technology.  Change and adjustment of an existing system is expensive and slow. Further compounded by the 15-20 year life cycles of Primary and Alternate systems; by the time many systems are put into service they are already behind the power curve.

The challenge is to develop Primary and Alternate systems that remain versatile enough to counter the known threats of today and address the unknown threats yet to materialise, which is a utopian aim.  Consequently, investment in the Contingency and Emergency areas should be increased. Growing the use of commercial solutions will allow for rapid development of systems which can use the most current technology and techniques. Although this approach could enhance the chances of achieving successful communication links in adverse conditions, it would require changes in policies, procedures in development and procurement and ultimately funding. However, this is balanced against assuring communications on the battlefield which will improve the safety and effectiveness of those tasked with defending their nations.

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