Air Force announces its first cyber ‘weapons system’

The Air Force has just declared full operational capability on its first-ever cyber weapons system.

The Air Force has just declared full operational capability on its first-ever cyber weapons system.

This is important for a couple reasons. First, it’s not an early prelude to Skynet, as far as we can tell. Second, semantics are important here: designating a piece of information technology as a “weapon” is a very conscious strategy to deal with the Pentagon’s planning and funding processes, even if said system will never attack anyone or anything.

A bit of context: Three years ago, top Air Force officials said they wanted to bring more order and discipline to their cyber spending by declaring at least some of the big IT projects that defend their networks and attack cyberspace adversaries as official “weapons systems.” The notion at the time was that doing so would give them similar heft in the Pentagon’s budgeting, programming and execution processes as the F-35 or the new long-range strike bomber and do justice to the latter third of the service’s slogan to “fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace.”

That prologue aside, the Air Force Intranet Control (AFINC) system would be considered a big deal in military IT circles under any circumstances. Now that it’s reached full operational capability, it will serve as the single, outermost defensive layer between the Air Force’s internal networks and the outside Internet. Prior to the start of the project, the service had more than 100 regionally-administered Internet access points — all potential entry vectors for hackers. Besides creating a common set of security protocols and better situational awareness, AFINC cuts that number to 16 gateways, Air Force officials said.

Aside from AFINC, the Air Force has several other cyber projects in the pipeline that it’s already designated as future weapons systems but are still awaiting full operational capability: Air Force Cyberspace Defense Weapon System, the Cyber Security and Control System Weapon System, the Cyber Command and Control Mission System Weapon System, the Cyberspace Defense Analysis Weapon System, and the Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter Weapon System.

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