Cyber Defense

Air Force puts its first cyber weapon system into play

The Air Force, which has been stepping up its cyber operations efforts, earlier this month launched what it calls its first cyberspace weapon system—the Air Force Intranet Control (AFINC), a defensive boundary for all traffic coming into the service’s network.

AFNIC consolidates more than 100 entry points on regionally managed Air Force networks into 16 centrally managed access points that cover all traffic on the Air Force Information Network, the Air Force said in an announcement. That’s a similar approach to what the Defense Department is doing with its Joint Information Environment, “shrinking the attack surface” through the Joint Regional Security Stacks.

While limiting the number of entry points, the system, operated by the 26th Network Operations Squadron at Gunter Annex, Ala., controls both external traffic and traffic between bases through 16 gateway suites. It also has 15 nodes for classified information on SIPRnet, more than 2000 service delivery points and two integrated management suites, the Air Force said.

The AFNIC system, which serves more than 1 million users at 237 sites around the world, was officially given full operational capability earlier this month.

"As the first line of defense for our network, the 26th NOS team is responsible for more than one billion firewall, Web, and email blocks per week from suspicious and adversarial sources," said Col. Pamela Woolley, commander of the 26th Cyberspace Operations Group.  "Our network is under constant attack and it is a testament to the dedication of our 26th NOS team that our network reliability and traffic flow remains consistently high."

The Air Force, like the other military services, has been focusing on building its cyber workforce and more tightly integrating cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum into its operations. In December, the service activated five new cyber squadrons made up of more than 500 personnel.

And last fall, Maj. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, director of intelligence at the Air Combat Command, talked about the Air Force’s efforts in “fusion warfare”—working in the physical and electronic domains simultaneously—and its work in developing an algorithm that could predict the effects of a cyber weapon. 

“The reason why we need fusion warfare is exactly to maintain our tactical edge.  And when I say our tactical edge, I mean the outer boundary of warfight – not just today, but specifically in 2035,” Jamieson said at the time.  “By then, our competitors will probably be near-peer technologically and some will have advanced us technologically.”

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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