The Air Force approved six cyberspace capabilities as weapon systems, which will help position them for continued management and sustainment funding, according to a key service official. 

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) Vice Commander Lt. Gen. John Hyten told an audience last week at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., that the approval helps the effort to normalize cyber operations in the Air Force.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Sheets said the six capabilities that became weapon systems are: Air Force Cyber Defense (ACD), Cyberspace Defense Analysis (CDA), Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter, Cyberspace C2 Mission System, Cyber Security and Control System (CSCS) and Air Force Intranet Control (AFINC). Defense Daily reported in November the Air Force was working to get these capabilities approved as weapon systems.

The approval technically allows AFSPC to manage operational cyber capabilities to organize, train and equip (OT&E) responsibilities in line with current Air Force methods; ensure these weapon systems are standardized, sustained and available to combatant commanders; mirror the approach taken for other Air Force weapon systems and align AFSPC with the other major combatant commands in the way they manage operational capabilities.

AFSPC chief Gen. William Shelton said in November though these cyber capabilities aren’t necessarily traditional weapon systems, weapon system designation would get these systems “in the standard Air Force weapons system sustainment process for continued management and sustainment funding through the lifecycle of the system,” he said.

Hyten said in his speech that the Air Force has established a forward presence at U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) and has begun integrating cyberspace operations with the other combatant commanders. He said the 24th Air Force has deployed and approved indication and warning capabilities to catalog the latest cyber threats and is developing the signatures to load into defense systems to protect all Defense Department networks from attack. The 24th Air Force is the service’s cyber warfare and cyber defense arm.

Hyten also said the Air Force continues to improve 24th Air Force capabilities to command and control its cyber forces. The service has also normalized and modernized the 624th Operations Center, which Hyten described as the cyber equivalent of an Air Operation Center (AOC).

“That’s a huge step forward,” Hyten said.

A cyber AOC will give the 24th Air Force commander effective cyber C2 at the operational level of war, consistent with the other component numbered Air Forces, Hyten said.

“We’ll continue to develop this important capability in order to be fully interoperable with other Air Force Ops Centers,” Hyten said.

Air Force Cyberspace Defense employs defensive counter cyberspace operations and situational awareness capabilities and defense in a network role to achieve cyberspace superiority for assigned missions. Cyberspace Defense Analysis monitors, analyzes and reports release of sensitive details from friendly systems such as computer networks, telephones, email and Air Force websites.

Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter provides vulnerability assessments, defense assessments and penetration test assessments for Air Force and DoD cyber assets. This capability will also conduct active defensive counter cyberspace operations to identify and counter advanced persistent threats to critical capabilities identified by combatant commanders and CYBERCOM.

Cyberspace C2 Mission System employs situational awareness capabilities to enable C2 of USAF cyber forces in support of Air Force and joint missions. Cyber Security and Control System provides full spectrum network management and network defense for the Air Force-provisioned portion of the Global Information Grid (GIG). Air Force Intranet Control provides network operations, network defense and overall management of the Air Force enterprise gateways (Defense Daily, Nov. 30).