The Complex

The Army wants to develop a new generation of cyber weapons

The U.S. Army is conducting a new study to identify the cyber weapons it needs to develop, the service's top cyber officer said today.

"We're working hard with mission command as well as with [Army Space and Missile Defense Command] to work our way through an initial capabilities requirements document to determine what gaps we believe we have [in cyber and other elecronic weaponry]. . . to support tactical and operational requirements," said Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, commander of Army Cyber Command during a speech at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference in Washington today.

Translated into English, that means that the service will look at the specific cyber effects that it needs on the battlefield (for example, taking over an enemy's communications networks or wreaking havoc on a base's power supplies) and it will then figure out the new weapons it needs to produce those effects.

This study "will produce a set of requirements that will drive an expanded level of capabilities beyond what we have today," added Hernandez.

These weapons could be in the form of more traditional electronic warfare (EW) tools such as those carried aboard aircraft or they could be advanced software weapons.

 "As we identify those requirements that I think we see -- again, cyber or cyber related, whether you argue that it's EW or not --  it's part of that capability set that I think we'll be looking for and it's any capability that allows us to achieve it whether its airborne on the ground or others," said Hernandez in response to a reporters question as to whether or not the service will look at airborne weapons.

Pentagon officials have traditionally been extremely tight-lipped about their offensive abilities in the cyber realm. However, this summer, Army and Marine Corps cyber officials acknowledged that they have conducted offensive cyber operations against the Taliban and that the services are developing ways for battlefield commanders to call for cyber fire support.

The Army is also developing a philosophy of "active defense" in cyberspace, much as the U.S. Air Force is doing. Active defense -- the tenets of which can border on offensive operations -- calls for defenders to snoop the networks of potential enemies and even hunt for hackers who are bent on attacking Army networks.

Also at the AUSA conference, Lt. Gen. Don Campbell, commander of III Corps, said the service and the nation as a whole must figure out rules of engagement for cyber weapons. "How far can we go to target this network or that network or capability or system, we're going to have to decide as a service or military," he said.

Hernandez did not say when the study will be done. Killer Apps has asked Army cyber for more information on this, we'll update when we hear back from them.

U.S. Army

The Complex

This might be China's third J-20 stealth fighter

A quick update on China's stealth fighter program: Photos newly published on a Chinese Web sites show what might be a third prototype J-20 stealth jet.

China has two different types of stealthy-looking fighters: the large J-20 and the smaller J-31. Many speculate that because of its large size, the J-20 is high-speed interceptor designed to fly out and shoot down enemy bombers -- similar to the old Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat -- or that it is a high-speed stealthy bomber designed to use a combination of stealth and speed to penetrate enemy air defenses and fire cruise missiles or bombs at targets such as bases or ships.

The latest photos show a J-20 with open compartments on the forward sections of its fuselage, which may contain avionics, communications gear or sensors. It is also worth noting that the third aircraft appears to have a different nose radome than its sibling J-20s, meaning that this jet may also contain an Active Electronically Scanned Array radar. All of this suggests the Chinese may be testing the sensors it plans to include on production J-20s. Still, without confirmation from the Chinese air force, this is pure speculation.

Photos of the first two J-20 prototypes, dubbed J-20 2001 and J-20 2002, have been appearing on Chinese Web forums for nearly two years, with the first jet making its maiden flight in early 2011.

The smaller J-31, revealed in September, appears to blatantly copy the shape of two American-made fighters: Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (It's worth pointing out that Lockheed's F-35 program was badly hacked several years ago. Loads of information was stolen, forcing a costly and time consuming redesign of several systems.) Little is known about the J-31 or what it will be used for.

Click here for more images of the possible third J-20.

Chinese Internet, China Defense Blog