Monday, April 09, 2012

Achilles' High-Tech Heel(s) - F-35 Must Read

There's no KISS when it comes to the F-35.   Keep It Simple Stupid is not on the menu.   The F-35 is all about complex, state-of-the-art complex.  It may be too complex for its own good or ours for that matter.

A report from Computer Security Organization online looks at hacking vulnerabilities of America's civilian/military logistics chain that keeps their aerial tankers operating.  It suggests that it's not very difficult for a clever hacker to keep those tankers on the ground when they're needed most.  For a limited-range light bomber, just like the F-35, that means it would have to remain in the hangar.

Meanwhile, AviationWeek, reports the US Navy is facing this very same sort of troubles in America's strategic shift from the Middle East to Asia.

New technologies—including aircraft carriers and stealthy strike aircraft—will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific theater. But equally new, foreign-built surveillance systems, electronic attack weapons and cyberinvasion tools are unexpectedly threatening crucial sensors and communications on advanced ships and aircraft, say top Pentagon officials.

The advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, for example, has a new vulnerability. Its wide-angle field-of-view radar can be attacked with cyberweapons through its active, electronically scanned array (AESA) antennas. Airborne cyber­weapons form data beams that can be packed with malware and directed into a target antenna. These devices are being developed by several nations specifically to electronically attack, jam, invade and exploit high-value, airborne targets, say U.S. electronic warfare (EW) specialists.

In particular, U.S. analysts have been watching China develop EW platforms to attack specific types of high-value sensor and command-and-control aircraft, says a longtime U.S. EW specialist. These include E-3 AWACS air-to-air radar, E-8 Joint Stars air-to-ground radar and P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft.

“Electronic attack can be the method of penetrating a system to implant viruses,” says the EW specialist. “You’ve got to find a way into the workings of that [target] system and generally that’s through some sort of emitted signal.”

Moreover, three years ago, several terabytes of data—some of it related to the F-35’s electronics systems—were copied during a series of break-ins of contractor networks. Penetrations were traced to known Chinese Internet addresses.

High-tech is very much a double-edged sword.  It works great until the other side figures out how to use it against youAnybody getting the feeling we - and the Americans - are getting in over our heads on this one?


Anonymous said...

The fact that the F-35 has millions of lines of code (25?), and that some or all of the code has been compromised does not bode well for the project. This means, in theory, that the F-35 code be disabled before a missile is even fired.

So maybe everyone is in over their heads on this one as you suggest. A simpler system which can act more autonomously (e.g. Super Hornet) might be a more secure option.

The Mound of Sound said...

This does seem to argue against placing total reliance on this single aircraft at least until the manufacturer provides some assurance its electronic integrity is secured.

We're going to be stuck with the F-35 for thirty years at least. Would it be unreasonable to expect Lockheed and the US government to warrant that its stealth technology will remain viable for at least 20 years of service? If they don't have that measure of confidence in their own technology, why should we?

I'd suggest you go over to Galloping Beaver where Dave (a very well connected military type) has posted the best information anywhere on how Canada got entangled in the F-35. It's light years ahead of anything you'll glean from the Canadian mass media.