Prepared by Costas Ioannou exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Yoana
On May 11, U.S scientists and engineers from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency took over the Pentagon centre courtyard in Washington, to demonstrate some of their most cutting-edge work for national security.
Stephen P. Welby, assistant secretary of defence for research and engineering, and DARPA Director Dr. Arati Prabhakar spoke with reporters about DARPA’s mission.
DARPA program managers and staff showed off and explained more than 60 of the agency’s programs involving air systems, biology, counterterrorism, cyber, ground warfare, maritime systems, microsystems, space and the electromagnetic spectrum.
DARPA is an engine of innovation, where scientists and engineers think about biology and new ways to keep soldiers healthy in combat environments, new ways to bring aircraft to maritime environments, and new space missions that could allow war fighters to do things in space they’ve never been able to do before.
The Communications under Extreme Radio Frequency Spectrum Conditions, or CommEx, program deals with the problem of communication systems for DoD aircraft. Link 16 is a military tactical data-exchange network used by the United States, NATO nations and several others.
Advancing the technology and getting the commercial push is one part of what DARPA does when the commercial sector is aggressively driving technology, which is then available around the world, the director said.
Since 2013, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Plan X cyber warfare program engineers have done the foundational work they knew it would take to create for the first time a common operating picture for warriors in cyberspace.
Next month in Suffolk, Plan X will be released from the DARPA lab and into the hands of operators during back-to-back annual joint cyber exercises: Cyber Guard and Cyber Flag.
Plan X is focusing on the workflow of military fighters use to accomplish their job when they’re in battle, defending their perimeter. Plan X also allows them to plan cyber missions based on the defence of key cyber terrain such as mail and file servers, routers and gateways that are important for their defence and give them good visibility into the behaviour, health and status of those pieces of key cyber terrain.
The program applies military science to computer science in cyberspace. This gives operators a platform they understand, encapsulating the military decision-making process and allowing operators to plan missions and think about cyber just as they were trained to do in boot camp and at the service academies.
A typical app that a network defender might use is Net stat, which would give an operator network statistics of a host in their battlespace. A data model for cyber allows Plan X engineers to rigorously define terminology and objects in cyberspace, for example, an Internet protocol address, a media access control address, a network interface or a piece of software.
Mitre Corporation, a federally funded research and development centre, developed the model using standards called STIX and TAXII that Mitre helped develop to allow sharing of cyber threat information. The effort stemmed from a 2015 executive order to promote private-sector cybersecurity information sharing.
Another win for the Plan X team is a planned construction model that allows operators to build courses of action visually and graphically. The graphic nature of the programming, is how a military planner would build a course of action visually. That course of action could become an app that could be saved in the Plan X app store, then future operators could pull it out of the app store and change the parameters for their specific application.
Plan X, will be transitioned to DoD and U.S. Cyber Command in 2017.
On May 11, U.S Deputy Defence Secretary Bob Work met with Romanian officials ahead of the next day inaugural ceremony for a land-based capability of the Aegis ballistic missile defence system.
U.S. and Romanian officials hailed the Aegis Ashore site in Deveselu, some 100 miles west of Bucharest, as a critical element in the defence of NATO’s 28 members.
Work talked about the importance of the site and met with Romanian officials who included President Klaus Iohannis, Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos, Defence Minister Mihnea Motoc and Foreign Affairs Minister Lazar Comanescu.
Work thanked the Romanian officials for the strong role their country plays in meeting common security challenges and also expressed condolences for two Romanian soldiers killed May 7 in Afghanistan. The soldiers were killed when gunmen wearing Afghan uniforms opened fire at a military base in Kandahar.
From Romania, Work travels to Poland, where he will participate in the ground-breaking of an Aegis Ashore site in Redzikowo. The site in Poland is expected to become operational in the 2018.
Daniel Ionita, Romania’s state secretary for strategic affairs at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, welcomed the site in his country.
On May 12, U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Bob Work helped to inaugurate the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence site in Deveselu, citing threats from Iran as a reason why NATO needs the protection.
The Aegis Ashore site will further boost NATO’s ability to counter the threat from ballistic missiles. The ceremony marked operational certification of the Deveselu site, which has radar and interceptors to provide ballistic-missile deterrent coverage of southern Europe.
The Aegis Ashore site is the land-based capability of the Aegis ballistic missile defence system. It is part of NATO’s larger ballistic missile defence system.
Turkey hosts the ballistic missile defence tracking radar. The NATO command-and-control centre is in Germany, and four U.S. Aegis ballistic missile defence ships are homeported in Rota, Spain.
On May 13, at the groundbreaking ceremony for an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence site in Poland, Deputy Defence Secretary Bob Work emphasized the system is for the protection of NATO members and not directed at Russia.
As American and Polish flags fluttered in the breeze, Work and dignitaries including Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz and NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment Patrick Auroy tossed shovelfuls of dirt to signify the start of the construction phase.
Polish leaders said that having the site in Poland reinforces the Polish commitment to unity in NATO and peace and security in Europe. Polish President Andrzej Duda said the Aegis Ashore site improves the collective security of NATO members.
The ceremony in Poland marks the start of the final phase of the missile defence project.
The first phase involved putting an early warning radar in Turkey and stationing U.S. warships with ballistic missile interceptors in Rota, Spain. The second phase involved constructing the first Aegis Ashore site in Romania. On May 12, the site was operationally certified to perform its mission, marking the completion of Phase 2 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach.
The site in Poland will be physically and operationally the same as the Romanian site. It is to be completed in 2018. The site is capable of defending the central and northern arc of NATO. The Romanian site is to provide ballistic-missile deterrent coverage of southern Europe.
The Aegis Ashore site is the land-based capability of the Aegis ballistic missile defence system. The Aegis Ashore sites are staffed by U.S. Navy personnel who serve on rotational deployments.
Bob Work thanked other NATO members for their contributions to the collective defence of the alliance, including the United Kingdom for investing in ground-based radar, and Denmark and the Netherlands for upgrading their frigates with new radar.
In time for the NATO summit in the Polish capital of Warsaw in July, alliance leaders are expected to declare initial operational capability for the NATO ballistic missile defence system. When that is declared, the early warning radar in Turkey, the site in Romania and the U.S. ballistic missile defence ships at sea will all be linked to a command centre in Germany, and be able to work together to engage missiles directed at Europe.
On May 11, Exercise Noble Partner 16 got underway between the U.S., U.K. and Georgian militaries at Vaziani Training Area in Georgia. The exercise will continue through May 26, and involves 650 U.S. troops, 500 Georgian service members and another 150 troops from the United Kingdom.
The focus of Exercise Noble Partner 16 is to further enhance Georgia’s self-defence capabilities, and provide a critical opportunity to train the light infantry company Georgia has contributed to the NATO Response Force.
The U.S. component also incorporates a full range of equipment that includes Abrams battle tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, M-119 light towed howitzers and several wheeled-support vehicles.
Alongside U.S. forces, Georgian forces will operate its T-72 main battle tanks, BMP-2 infantry combat vehicles and several wheeled-support vehicles.
On May 11, United States and Russian senior defence officials agreed to a continuation of adherence to the U.S.-Russia memorandum of understanding regarding flight safety over Syrian airspace.
The subject was discussed during a video conference involving Acting Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin, Joint Staff Director for Strategic Plans and Policy Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. and their Russian Ministry of Defence counterparts.
The two sides committed to adhering to the memorandum of understanding on flight safety as long as each side is operating in Syria.
This meeting follows previous video conferences between the Department of Defence and the Russian Ministry of Defence on this topic. The two sides agreed to continue safety discussions in this format in the future.
Also on May 11, U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
Strikes in Syria
Attack and remotely piloted aircraft conducted six strikes in Syria:
- Near Shadaddi, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
- Near Mara, four strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and an ISIL staging facility and destroyed an ISIL vehicle and 12 ISIL fighting positions.
- Near Manbij, a strike denied ISIL access to terrain.
Strikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 13 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:
- Near Baghdadi, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL boat, an ISIL fighting position and three ISIL staging areas.
- Near Bashir, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL assembly area.
- Near Beiji, a strike destroyed an ISIL tunnel entrance.
- Near Fallujah, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL mortar position and two ISIL rocket rails.
- Near Kisik, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit.
- Near Mosul, two strikes destroyed nine ISIL rocket rails, an ISIL vehicle and an ISIL assembly area.
- Near Qayyarah, a strike destroyed two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL assembly area.
- Near Sinjar, a strike destroyed an ISIL assembly area.
- Near Sultan Abdallah, a strike destroyed an ISIL rocket system and an ISIL vehicle.
- Near Tal Afar, a strike destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
On May 15-24, U.S. troops will partnered with Jordanian military forces in Jordan and executing Exercise Eager Lion 16, one of U.S. Central Command’s premier exercises.
Eager Lion 16 will consist of a week-long series of simulated scenarios to facilitate a coordinated partnered military response to conventional and unconventional threats.
The exercise scenarios include border security, command and control, cyber defence and battlespace management.
About 6,000 military personnel, including representatives from Centcom headquarters and its air, land and maritime components will support the exercise.