Attacks on shipping in the Arabian Gulf during May has been blamed on Iran. Four tankers registered to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Norway were damaged. When the United Arab Emirates took the matter to the United Nations Security Council during the first week in June, the Emiratis described the weapons used as limpet mines delivered by small boats. They blamed a nation-state without naming Iran (BBC).
The US was not shy about calling out Tehran, with mixed but generally positive support from allies (Foreign Policy, Times). Iran responded to US diplomatic pressure by shooting down a US Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk drone on June 19th. Tehran says the RQ-4A was flying over southern Iran, but the US insists, with evidence, that the drone was in international airspace over the Straits of Hormuz.
The Global Hawk is a big, capable, expensive platform, coming in at $131.4 million a copy, exclusive of research and development costs. Iran says it took down the RQ-4A with its Khordad missile defense system. Iranian spokesmen added that the Khordad can detect targets at ranges of one-hundred-fifty kilometers, track them at one-hundred-twenty kilometers, and engage them at eighty-five kilometers. The interceptor the system uses is a Sayyad 3 missile, developed from US SM-1 (RIM-66) Standard Missiles with which Iran was armed during the days of the Shah.
The US response was in cyberspace. US Cyber Command is said to have conducted offensive operations against Iranian targets in reprisal for both Tehran's attacks on commercial shipping and for the RQ-4A shootdown. Yahoo broke the story, saying the attacks were directed against an Iranian intelligence unit responsible for supporting operations against shipping by tracking tanker traffic.
The Washington Post added details, reporting that US Cyber Command had disabled Iranian missile command and control systems in the region, which would be a direct riposte to the Global Hawk shootdown. US Central Command and the US Navy have referred inquiries to Cyber Command, which declines to comment for reasons of operational security. Fox News says Iran has promised a "firm" response to any American "aggression."
The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warned that Iran has increased the tempo of its cyberattacks against US targets, and that destructive wiper attacks could be expected. These typically gain access to target networks through familiar criminal methods, particularly phishing, password spraying, and credential stuffing, but their goal is destruction of data, not data theft. CISA's advice for defense is here; companies are advised to look to their security.
The US imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian leaders (Wall Street Journal), but beyond that the situation remains where it was: Iranian kinetic action was met with a US cyber response. President Trump warned American patience and restraint shouldn't be overestimated, and Iran's leaders say they could knock down another American drone whenever they decided to do so, and that "the enemy knows it" (Washington Post).
Looking for your next career step in signals and space? Let’s talk.
At Cosmic AES, we leverage existing and emerging technologies, rapid prototyping, and disciplined engineering practices to develop innovative solutions to the most difficult national security concerns. We’re always looking for talented engineers, software developers, and system analysts who thrive in a fast-paced, creative environment. See the opportunities available at Cosmic AES.
The RQ-4A is emphatically not a commodity system. But commercial uses of drones proliferate. They've moved from small hobbyist craft to platforms for commercial overhead imagery and soon, if Amazon is correct in its projections, to delivery vehicles. Amazon expects to put delivery drones into service in a matter of months (Telegraph). Some skeptics think this unrealistic (Telegraph) but Amazon seems all-in on the plan.
Military systems are following a comparable path. The US Navy's CICADA, essentially a swarm of drone gliders released from some mothership (an aircraft, a larger drone, even a balloon), is an example of the possibilities offered by non-traditional acquisition paths. CICADA ("Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft") is small, stackable, and cheap enough at $250 each to be effectively expendable. The program had its origins in the Naval Research Laboratory; it's reached the demonstration stage (C4ISRNET).
Satcom systems, entering the field and under development.
The Department of Defense is increasingly turning to commercial operators for its satellite communications needs. Inmarsat has been awarded a contract worth up to $246 million over five years to provide the Defense Information Systems Agency with commercial satellite bandwidth for Africa Command. The Ku-band services will support, DISA said, "airborne intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and command and control missions” (C4ISRNET).
Larger numbers of satellites will require more capable ground stations. In particular, they'll require ground stations capable of connecting with multiple orbital platforms simultaneously. Harris Corporation has been awarded an Air Force Defense Innovation Unit contract to develop an antenna that will enable ground stations to do so (C4ISRNET).
Commercial-military satellite transactions aren't all one-way. The US Commerce Department is finalizing plans to arrange access to the Air Force's Unified Data Library, the Service's satellite situational awareness database. Commerce intends to share portions of that database with commercial operators in order to enable them to improve the safety and reliability of their systems in an increasingly crowded orbital space (C4ISRNET).
Will AI return mass to the battlespace?
Revolutions in military have been so often proclaimed and fallen so far short of their threat and promise that one might be forgiven if one dismissed them the way one does a "paradigm shift" in business. But here's one thing to think about: an essay in Foreign Affairs sees the effect of artificial intelligence as restoring the importance of sheer mass to the battlefield. Small, cheap swarms of expendable autonomous sensors and weapons--they don't even need to very capable individually--are seen as threatening to disrupt post-Second World War American strategic reliance on relatively small numbers of highly capable, expensive, multi-purpose platforms. This would be disruption in the business sense of the term, disruption of the kind Blockbuster experienced at the hands of Netflix.
Such autonomous systems are increasingly becoming commodified and commercialized, particularly in the form of drones and satellite systems. The notoriously long development and procurement lead-times of the traditional military acquisition process renders any strategy with an array of ACAT-1 systems as its centerpiece particularly problematic, from this point of view. Small, cheap, plentiful, expendable and good enough may steal a march on big, expensive, scarce, non-expendable, and close-to-perfect. Thus a strategy that relies on qualitative superiority may find to its discomfiture that quantity has a quality all its own. This ought to hold some lessons about the value of rapid prototyping and alternative procurement systems.
Looking for greater agility in acquisition.
Both military Services and civilian agencies are looking to non-traditional acquisition approaches to speed systems from development to the field. The US Navy and the Department of Health and Human Services face surprisingly similar challenges as software takes a dominant position in both naval and healthcare systems (Federal News Network).
Some of the rapid innovation sought, the Government hopes, will be found in small businesses. The Senate is urging the Department of Homeland Security to reserve a large fraction of its acquisition budget for small businesses (Homeland Security Today). The Air Force is apparently pleased with the results of its Shark-Tank-like pitch days, and intends to hold more of them (C4ISRNET).
Overhead surveillance systems.
OPIR funding remains contentious as Congress shows some sticker-shock at the system's cost. The Air Force, however, remains fully committed, and the system seems likely to become reality. Lockheed Martin and its principal subcontractor showed quiet optimism about the system's prospects at the Paris Air Show, and the Air Force continues to view OPIR as a test of its ability to develop and field a complex space system more rapidly than has been possible in the past (Breaking Defense).
GPS spoofing as an anti-drone tactic?
There’s been a wave of Russian GPS spoofing since last autumn. Some of it was in the Baltic region; some of it was in the Black Sea. C4ISRNET suggests a possible motive for the Black Sea incidents at least: it may have involved executive protection against drones. The incidents seem to have been strongly correlated with President Vladimir Putin's movements, and there’s some speculation that the new age meaconning was intended to keep any hostile drones safely away from the Russian president.
Drone defense notes.
One direct antidrone technique, of course, is to shoot them down, which is what Iran did to a US RQ-4 Global Hawk. Tehran says the RQ-4 was over southern Iran; Washington says it was over international waters in the Strait of Hormuz (CBS News).
The US Marine Corps is testing a ground-based, drone-killing laser (Defense News). Mounted on a light tactical truck, the Compact Laser Weapon System (CLaWS) is a rapid-prototyping project. The Army is said to be testing its own version of the system (Breaking Defense).
The US Air Force is working up a microwave system, THOR (Tactical High Power Microwave Operational Responder--for the acronym to work, you've got to read "High-power-microwave" as one word). Developed at Kirtland Air Force Base by the Air Force Research Laboratory, THOR is another rapid prototyping effort, said to have gone from concept to realization in some eighteen months (Task and Purpose). THOR looks like a standard CONEX with a satellite dish on top. It's designed to be easily deployable for base defense anywhere, including expeditionary bases, and it's optimized for use against swarms of drones. High-power microwaves disable the drones' on-board electronics (Military.com).
Space Force and Space Command updates.
Space Force cleared what observers took to be its biggest hurdle this month, as a bipartisan majority of the House Armed Services Committee voted to establish the new military Service. The draft approved calls it "Space Corps," but it is, in outline, the Space Force the Administration proposed. The House and Senate bills are expected to go through reconciliation without undue difficulty, and the model for Space Force and its place in the Department of the Air Force indeed seems likely to be the US Marine Corps and its place in the Department of the Navy (Breaking Defense). One of the differences between the House's Space Corps and the Senate's Space Force is budget: Space Corps is expected to cost $3.6 billion through FY 2014, including one-time start-up costs. Estimates for Space Force have come in higher, with earlier Congressional Budget Office projections falling between $7 billion and $14 billion (Breaking Defense).
Who eventually is picked to lead the new Service is thought to be a matter of some importance by those who look to the "Founder Effect" as vital to the establishment of great institutions (National Review). Space Force's roles and missions will evolve, but one that seems likely to endure is protection of commerce (POLITICO).
Space Command, the Combatant Command not to be confused with Space Force, has its prospective leader. The Senate confirmed US Air Force General John Raymond on June 27th to command the new US Space Command (TheHill). There is some sentiment in the Senate, at least, in favor of giving General Raymond a second hat as Space Force commander when that Service is finally established (Breaking Defense).
And space is no longer to be considered a "peaceful, benign" domain.
On June 4th, General Raymond told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "We no longer have the luxury of operating in a peaceful, benign domain. And we no longer have the luxury of treating space superiority as a given” (Stars and Stripes). He said that any future war with a peer competitor, and for the foreseeable future those peer competitors will be Russia and China, would be fought in space as well in the more familiar land, air, and maritime domains. In his view the US enjoys an advantage, but that advantage can't be taken for granted, and will require work to sustain and extend.
United Technologies and Raytheon will merge.
Raytheon has agreed to merge with United Technologies, the Washington Business Journal reports. The merged company, Raytheon Technologies, will be the world's second-largest aerospace (serving both commercial and military markets) and defense integrator, behind only Boeing. It's generally expected that the merger will go through, especially since Raytheon and United Technologies don't directly compete in most areas, and because United Technologies is spinning out its two major commercial, non-aviation businesses (elevator-manufacturer Otis and HVAC company Carrier). There is some United Technologies shareholder dissatisfaction with the merger, but this is thought unlikely to impede its progress (Defense News). The US Air Force at least is wary of further consolidation in the Defense Industrial Base, and will be watching the merger closely (Yahoo).
Yesterday was Asteroid Day, and Signals & Space sends you greetings of the season.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting China, France, India, Iran, Ireland, Russia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Iran threatens more attacks on US drones as Pompeo visits region(Military Times) Iran's naval commander warned that Iranian forces would not hesitate to act again and shoot down more U.S. surveillance drones that violate Iranian airspace. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is meeting with the Saudi king and crown prince.
Iran's Attack on US Drone Escalates Tensions in the Gulf(Atlantic Council) If the United States decides to strike back at Iran for its shooting down of a US drone on June 20 , “the escalatory spiral” in the region “will only continue with potential disastrous consequences, according to Barbara Slavin, director of the...
Trump blames Iran for tanker attacks but calls for talks(Military Times) President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for attacks on oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but he also held out hope that implicit U.S. threats to use force will yield talks with the Islamic Republic as the Pentagon considers beefing up defenses in the Persian Gulf area.
Pompeo tries rallying foreign leaders in alleged oil attacks(Military Times) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reaching out to wary foreign leaders to frame alleged Iranian attacks in a Middle East oil shipping route as a problem for the world at large, especially for Asian countries vitally dependent on that oil.
Iran is just a few steps away from nuclear weapons(Times) Three components are required for a country to become a nuclear-armed power: the fissile material for a bomb, the means of delivering it and the political will to take that step in the first place.
The Cyber Threat To NASA’s Artemis Program(OODA Loop) NASA is enabling another giant leap for humanity. With the Artemis program, humans will return to the Moon in a way that will enable establishment of gateways to further exploration of not just the Moon
NASA Lab Hacked Using A $25 Raspberry Pi Computer(Fossbytes) A NASA lab was hacked using a Raspberry Pi. This breach occured in April 2018 where NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was hacked and 500MB of data from major mission systems was stolen. A federal report of the incident confirms that a Raspberry Pi to gain access to the system. It also highlighted the major security lapses that were present in NASA's network for about a decade and made the breach possible.
The New Revolution in Military Affairs(Foreign Affairs) For the U.S. military to succeed on the battlefields of the future, it will need a force built around large numbers of small, inexpensive, expendable, and highly autonomous systems.
What are the benefits of commercial space?(C4ISRNET) Space is becoming an increasingly commercial domain, and the U.S. government has to figure out the right ways to engage with the commercial sector to enhance its missions.
3 space challenges for the intelligence community(C4ISRNET) The White House appointment for director of America’s intelligence satellites offers new proposals concerning artificial intelligence integration and partnerships between private industry and government.
NAVAIR Digital Group seeks tech, cyber support(Intelligence Community News) On June 13, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) posted a sources sought notice for technology acceleration and integration, information management, and cybersecurity support services. Respo…
USAF posts space defensive cyber ops RFI(Intelligence Community News) On June 7, the U.S. Air Force posted a request for information for Defensive Cyber Operations for Space (DCO-S). Responses are due by July 10. This RFI is conducted to gather information and identi…
Jeff Bezos wants to build the infrastructure for space startups(TechCrunch) At its re:Mars conference, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos took the stage today to be “interviewed” by Jenny Freshwater, Amazon’s director of forecasting. As any AWS machine learning tool could have forecasted, having an employee interview her boss didn’t lead to any challengi…
SPAWAR posts digital modular radio RFI(Intelligence Community News) On June 6, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command issued a request for information for digital modular radios 500W HFPA. Responses are due no later than August 6. The Program Executive Office …
NRO shares plans for commercial imagery acquisition(SpaceNews) On the first day of the 2019 GEOINT Symposium here, the National Reconnaissance Office announced three contracts, whetting everyone’s appetite for more information on how the agency plans to acquire commercial satellite imagery for the U.S. defense and intelligence community.
Peraton to acquire Solers(Intelligence Community News) Herndon, VA-based Peraton, a portfolio company of Veritas Capital, announced on June 17 that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Solers, Inc., a leading provider of software devel…
Raytheon Wins Air Force F-15, C-130 Cyber Contracts(Breaking Defense) Maintainers hook into a plane to find out what's wrong with it. Smart weapons connect to the plane's network. The pilot's helmet mounted display taps into onboard and offboard data. "All these are potential threat vectors we're concerned about," Todd said.
Raytheon mentors Colorado Springs defense contractor(Colorado Springs Gazette) Defense giant Raytheon is lending a hand to local cybersecurity contractor Infinity Technology Services, which went from nearly defunct to earning over a million dollars in less than a year.
Next Gen Jammer Deliveries & OPIR: New Raytheon SAS Boss(Breaking Defense) Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems division is planning to hire more than 5,000 people. "Over 2,000 last year, and over 2,000 in the next 18 months, and that's likely to continue for the next four to five years," Roy Azevedo says in our interview.
Parsons planning more merger and acquisition moves(SpaceNews.com) Fresh off its purchase of geospatial intelligence firm OGSystems in January, Parsons is searching for more companies to buy that would further expand its presence in space, among other industries.
Thales gets Syracuse 4 ground segment work(Shephard Media) Thales has received a contract from the French defence procurement agency (DGA) to design and build the ground segment for the next-generation Syracuse 4 satellite ...
Virgin Orbit seeks to launch satellites from the UK by 2020(TechCrunch) One of Richard Branson’s space companies (yes, he has more than one) is looking to bring satellite launches to British soil, with a new Virgin Spaceport based in Cornwall. The project now has buy-in from the U.K. Space Agency, which intends to put £7.8 million (around US$9.94 million) into de…
Thales introduces Spy Ranger 550(Shephard Media) Thales has expanded its mini UAS range with the introduction of the Spy Ranger 550. Designed to boost the intelligence gathering capabilities of units deployed ...
Crowdfunded spacecraft LightSail 2 prepares to go sailing on sunlight(TechCrunch) Among the many spacecraft and satellites ascending to space on Monday's Falcon Heavy launch, the Planetary Society's LightSail 2 may be the most interesting. If all goes well, a week from launch it will be moving through space — slowly, but surely — on nothing more than the force exerted on it by s…
How contractors can guard against cyber intrusions(Fifth Domain) Contractors, facing an increasing barrage of cyber intrusions by foreign entities, should protect themselves using traditional regulatory approaches but also new techniques such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, according to a new report from Deloitte.
Air Force gets new stopgap system for GPS 3 satellites(C4ISRNET) The Contingency Operations (COps) software upgrade will allow the current ground system controlling the GPS constellation to control the next-generation GPS III satellites, the first of which was launched in December.
Is electronic warfare already legacy technology?(C4ISRNET) Electronic warfare is often held up as a core category of modern warfare. But if you ask William Conley, director of electronic warfare in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, the military will soon be moving on.
Beyond Software-Defined Networking: The AI-Driven Enterprise(Juniper Networks) At Juniper Networks, our work is to envision, design and build the network of the future. While that future is surely software-defined and charged with cloud transformation, there is a wide gap between the reality of today’s networks and the cohesive and centrally-managed model of the future. Today,...
How NASA wants to explore the AI sector(Federal Times) The agency is navigating through roadblocks that once blocked it from fully utilizing innovations in artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology.
Navy Looking for Better Ways to Share Data(USNI News) The Navy is grappling with how to securely share the large amounts of data ship designers, operators and sustainers collect, a panel of engineers said Wednesday.
NASA’s Dragonfly will fly across the surface of Titan, Saturn’s ocean moon(TechCrunch) NASA has just announced its next big interplanetary mission: Dragonfly, which will deliver a Mars Rover-sized flying vehicle to the surface of Titan, a moon of Saturn with tantalizing life-supporting qualities. The craft will fly from place to place, sampling the delicious organic surface materials…
Trump Sanctions Iran’s Supreme Leader(Atlantic Council) US President Donald J. Trump on June 24 signed an executive order that he said would place “hard-hitting” sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader. “The Supreme Leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime....
US cannot ‘expect to stay safe,’ warns Iran’s foreign minister(Military Times) Iran’s foreign minister warned the U.S. on Monday that it “cannot expect to stay safe” after launching what he described as an economic war against Tehran, taking a hard-line stance amid a visit by Germany’s top diplomat seeking to defuse tensions.
Ireland has high hopes with first space strategy(Times) The government has launched Ireland’s first national space strategy. John Halligan, the innovation minister, said the plan, which runs until 2025, would ultimately benefit “our children’s...
What's In the New Draft National Defense Authorization Act(Just Security) "The baseline draft bill, which is also called the chairman’s mark, touches on key issues ranging from the militarization of the southern border to deterring Russia and reemphasizing the nation’s commitment to protecting human rights."
Draft NDAA Includes Multiple Requirements for DoD IT(Meritalk) The House Armed Services Committee draft version of the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), released June 3, includes multiple provisions that would increase congressional oversight over multiple Defense Department (DoD) technology initiatives.
Congress Gives Trump Rump Space Force(Breaking Defense) "Given the DoD’s poor job of presenting how we would move people and what criteria would be used, the congressional pushback is expected," says one Space Force proponent.
House panel worries about Navy’s at-sea network(Fifth Domain) The House Armed Services Committee wants to fence off about 15 percent of the Navy’s funding for its advanced at-sea network until the service answers questions about the program’s cybersecurity.
Price tag to return to the Moon could be $30 billion(TechCrunch) NASA's ambitious plan to return to the moon may cost as much as $30 billion over the next five years, the agency's administrator, Jim Bridenstine, indicated in an interview this week. This is only a ballpark figure, but it's the first all-inclusive one we've seen and, despite being a large amount o…
What to Expect from Acting Secretary of Defense Mark Esper(Atlantic Council) As Washington focuses on the threat emanating from Tehran, US President Donald J. Trump is nominating a new head for the Department of Defense, one who has kept his eyes on the long-term challenges facing the United States. Trump named Secretary of...
Tournear Tapped as Acting SDA Director(Air Force Magazine) Derek Tournear, DOD's assistant director for space within the department’s research and engineering branch, became acting director of the Space Development Agency June 24, less than a week after the agency’s founding director, Fred Kennedy, left the post.
The Commerce Department is close to an agreement for space data(C4ISRNET) Kevin O'Connell, director of the Commerce Department's Office of Space Commerce, said leaders are close to obtaining an agreement to use the Air Force's space situational awareness data as a base for a public repository for commercial companies.