US Air Force Creates an Airplane for Hacking Enemy Military Networks

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At the Air Force Association Air & Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland (near Washington), Major General Burke Wilson revealed a new US Air Force project, an innovative airborne hacking platform.

Military networks around the world, regardless of country, are usually air-gapped systems, meaning they don’t have an Internet connection, mainly to protect sensitive data from being hacked by external actors like hackers or another country’s cyber-army.

This means that the only way to hack them is to try and infiltrate the networks using infected USB drives, ground espionage agent(s), or attack the network’s local WiFi capabilities from somewhere near in its vicinity.

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EC-130, an airplane made for hacking

Now, as military news website Breaking Defense is reporting, US Air Force researchers have modified an EC-130H Compass Call aircraft to perform cyber-attacks on ground-based enemy military networks. The EC-130 airplane is often used by the US Air Force to jam enemy transmissions in war zones.

“We’ve conducted a series of demonstrations. Lo and behold! […] we’re able to touch a target and manipulate a target network, from an aircraft,” said Maj. Gen. Burke Wilson, commander of the 24th Air Force, a division of the US Air Force that is specialized in cyberspace operations.

This means that, if the plane tests successfully in the future, the US Air Force will be able to deploy it alongside its air fleet, wreaking havoc with its bombs and viruses at the same time.

Cyber-warfighting methods are seeing increased usage

The incorporation of this kind of cyber-attack tools in the US military’s arsenal is not such a far-fetched scenario, Gen. Wilson also confirming their increased usage in recent Red Flag war games.

He recounts that, while in previous years cyber weaponry used to be considered “an afterthought,” today most of these tools are “front and center” at almost all Red Flag war games.