Information Warfare: November 23, 1999


During the Kosovo War, the US Air Force was able to tap into Serbian communications networks through satellites and EC-130 Compass Call aircraft to insert false messages about non-existent air raids and other attacks. In the next war, they plan to do better, and to ensure this, the Air Force is already assigning more people to Information Warfare and giving them the time, money, and equipment to develop new means of attack. One new weapon is expected to be placed in orbit late this year, although Pentagon lawyers are still trying to decide if it is legal to use it. One of the problems with information warfare is that it cannot be limited to just military targets, and could affect civilians. This could (in today's enlightened era) result in charges of war crimes (since any damage to civilian facilities is considered too much). These very legal issues kept the Air Force from infiltrating the Serb air defense communications network until after an F-117 was shot down, at which point legal issues suddenly became irrelevant and the information attacks started. While the Serbs claim to have launched information warfare attacks on US computer networks, none were successful and none have been traced back to the Serbs. It was noted that cyber attacks on Pentagon systems increased dramatically after the Chinese embassy and a Belgrade hospital were bombed by accident. The Air Force is reviewing its internal organization, and will now place cyber warfare officers physically in the command centers where air strikes are planned and controlled. This will allow targeted cyber attacks to be orchestrated as part of the overall effort, much as the Army includes artillery, engineer, and other specialist staff officers in its command posts. One way the Air Force will get better organized is by forming an Information Warfare Flight under the 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB. This unit of 30 people will coordinate cyber plans and operations. Another flight will be organized in the 7th Air Force in Korea this year. During 2000, information warfare flights will be established at USAF-Europe, Pacific Air Forces, 8th Air Force, and 12th Air Force. The USAF has also opened a special school to train information warriors to fill these new units. China uses its civilian telephone switching system as its air defense communications network. Because there are masses of equipment on this network, it is virtually impossible to disable. The USAF, however, is no longer interested in blocking such networks but is now targeted on inserting false messages and corrupting real ones. --Stephen V Cole


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