Picture a gun that shoots data beams -- electronic ones and zeroes that can open a network like a key in a door. Now mount it to a robotic plane operated by remote control from around the world. The Navy wants that system ... in just eight years.
According to a report at Military.com, the U.S. Navy is angling for a just such a cyberweapon, something built for the growing fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are increasingly at the backbone of the world's military fleets. The weapon would emit a long-range data stream, most likely from a radar-like device built explicitly to transmit these algorithms along specialized waveforms.
It sounds like science fiction, something from the "Terminator" series of movies. But top Pentagon leadership is already pushing for accelerated advances in electronic attack technology, according to the site.
Military.com reports that a Resource Management Decision signed by Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter in late January directed the services toward additional investments in electronic warfare. It calls for the "Navy's acquisition of 26 additional EA-18G Growlers [that will be assigned to four squadrons operating with the USAF's expeditionary air forces]," says an aerospace industry official.
Mounted on those craft could be some very advanced cyber weapons. There will be technology enhancements for the Next Generation Jammer, which is designed to function as the "shooting end" for the electronic attack weapon system. There will be versatile new antennas, open-architecture exciters that can produce exotic waveforms and algorithms on demand, and stronger power sources in smaller packages (aided by nanotechnologies). A highly automated, electronic attack battle management system also may be added -- something that could make many of the decisions for a pilot with no crew or for an unmanned aircraft with no pilot.
"The Air Force was directed to spend about $400 million on an airborne electronic attack [AEA] pod program," Carter told the Web site. "That means taking existing jammer pod inventory and putting it on different aircraft. For example, it may mean putting the Navy's ALQ-99 pod on F-16s."
Pentagon officials point to a "data deluge [that] is overwhelming the warfighter," says Zachary Lemnios, director of defense research and engineering and the Pentagon's chief technology officer.