The Royal Australian Air Force is assembling a new cyber warfare team, with the first recruits starting an intensive six-month training program in February.
The RAAF reports its new “cyber force” will be a “workforce specifically selected, trained and prepared to lead a team of technical experts responsible for protecting networks, data, and information systems” in light of a growing threat from sophisticated cyber attacks.
This is an important part of building the Fifth Generation Air Force, a “fully-networked force that exploits the advantages of an available, integrated, and shared battlespace picture to deliver lethal and non-lethal air power” according to the script.
The RAAF says its need for cyber experts is rapidly growing and it has created two new employment categories — cyber warfare officer (CWO) and cyber warfare analyst (CWA) — as of October 31.
Current Air Force members are invited to submit expressions of interest to transfer into these streams. Most of the new cyber warfare roles will boost the ranks of No. 462 Squadron, which is part of the Information Warfare Directorate and headquartered at RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia, but some will work in Canberra with the Defence Force’s Joint Cyber Unit and the Australian Cyber Security Centre.
New CWO recruits would go through officer training, followed by 18 weeks of initial technical training and a further 12 months of consolidation training. The squadron’s commanding officer, Wing Commander David Clyde, said the new employment categories would “professionalise and enhance” existing cyber capabilities.
“We’ve been conducting cyber operations for some time, but with the increase of computer and digital communications networks, protecting the airpower mission from cyber adversary attacks has become a critical capability,” Wing Commander Clyde said in a statement.
“Our Fifth Gen Air Force is dependent on its networks, data links, and information for operational success, therefore it’s imperative that Air Force’s information, systems and capabilities are protected from cyber attacks or exploitation.”
Potential recruits are told the new CWOs will perform various technical and leadership roles. “You can expect to lead small tactical CW teams conducting a variety of missions within the vast expanses of Air Force’s operational and strategic information systems supporting Air Force operations,” says the Defence Jobs website.
“Through the use of highly advanced information and communications technology (ICT), the CW workforce plans, integrates, monitors, develops, and employs cyber warfare techniques in contribution to Information Superiority in a contested cyber environment.”
There are four main roles for cyber warfare experts: responding to malicious software; hardening systems with improved discovery and counter-intrusion measures; planning cyber warfare operations; and practising offensive tactics.
The Defence recruiting website describes this last activity as the “simulation” of tactics, techniques and procedures an adversary might use. “This function is critical to maintaining the requisite technical mastery of the CW workforce,” it adds.
The 462SQN is integrated with the Australian Defence Force’s Joint Cyber Unit along with staff of the Australian Signals Directorate, which was formerly part of the Defence Force before it became a stand-alone agency with a broader role in national security.
The director-general of RAAF personnel, Air Commodore Geoffrey Harland, confirmed this collaboration would continue.