EXPERIMENTINGThe U.S. Army’s combat capabilities development team kicked off a monthslong experiment last week to test emerging technologies that could be added into the service’s tactical network.


Defense Express reports with a reference to c4isrnet.com


The third annual Network Modernization Experiment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey started July 20 and ends Oct. 2. NetModX provides an opportunity for the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s C5ISR Center — or Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Center — to perform field tests with emerging capabilities that have largely been tested in the lab.


Field tests with simulated threat environments, as opposed to lab tests, are important because technologies react in unexpected ways due to realities like different types of trees or terrain.


This year’s theme for NetModX is mission command and command-post survivability, which means participants will focus on technologies that could be fielded in the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network Capability Set ’23 and Capability Set ’25 — future iterations of network tools that the Army plans to deliver to soldiers every two years.


In this year’s test, the C5ISR Center is testing communications capabilities that allow for distributed mission command systems across the battlefield “and wider area,” said Michael Brownfield, chief of the future capabilities office at the C5ISR Center.


“We’ve learned by watching our enemies fight, and we know that to survive on the battlefield, No. 1, they can’t be able to see us,” Brownfield told C4ISRNET in an interview. “And No. 2, we have to distribute our systems across the battlefield to give them multiple targets and multiple dilemmas in order to survive.”


NetModX is also testing network resiliency capabilities that could be delivered as part of Capability Set ’23. Preliminary design review for the capability set is scheduled for April next year. To test the effectiveness of the resiliency projects the center developed in the lab, the C5ISR Center created a “state-of-the-art red cell” that attacks the network using enemy’s tactics, techniques and procedures, according to Brownfield. The goal is to make sure the technology can withstand electronic attacks and allow for continuous operations in contested environments when in the hands of deployed soldiers.


“What resiliency means to us is the network bends, it doesn’t break,” Brownfield said. “And the commanders have the information they need and the coordination that they need to fight the battle.”

 A modular radio frequency system of systems is undergoing tests, and Brownfield says it will “revolutionize” the fight on the battlefield. The system automatically switches between primary, alternate, contingency and emergency, or PACE, radios by sensing if radio frequencies are being jammed. The system then responds by automatically switching radio channels to allow for seamless communications in a contested environment.


Currently, “it’s kind of hard to switch to alternate comms when the person you’re talking to is on their primary, not their alternative comms,” Brownfield said. “And the process is very slow. It’s human-driven.”


Now, the automatic PACE system sensesa as undermining international rules.


“Frustrating the ‘no international norms’ myth sticks around. If there are no international norms then there’s showing any restraint ourselves is a sucker bet. No one else is restrained, so why should we be? It’s a crap argument,” Jason Healey, a senior research scholar at Columbia University, tweeted in response. “Saying there are ‘no international norms’ for cyber conflict is ignorant, wrong, and dangerous. Often someone is just parroting what they’ve heard. Others specifically say it [because] they want fewest restraints on US cyber actions.”


“Conflicting messages, like the one below amplified by @US_Cybercom yesterday, undermine progress in developing and enforcing such limits,” tweeted Kristen Eichensehr, an assistant professor of law at UCLA Law School.


“U.S. CyberCom: the Russians and Chinese are conducting massive cyber attacks against the U.S. This is an outrage, they must stop! Also U.S. CyberCom: there are no rules in cyberspace. Errm, if so, Russia and China do not violate any rules. So why should they stop,” tweeted Przemysław Roguski, a lecturer in international law at Jagiellonian University in Poland.


The second prong of King’s deterrent approach involves a greater declaratory policy, because “if you don’t tell your adversary that you’ll respond, then it’s not a deterrent,” he said. “I think we need to have a much clearer statement of our doctrine, of our strategy so that adversaries know that they will, in fact, pay a price.”


U.S. defense officials have begun speaking more bombastically about their intentions and are attempting to signal to adversaries that malign activity is not acceptable.


Cyber Command and the National Security Agency “are going to know our adversaries better than they know themselves, we’re going to broaden our partnership and we’re going to act when we see adversaries attempting to interfere in our elections,” a July 24 tweet from Cyber Command read. This mirrors statements made by Nakasone on July 20 at an Association of the U.S. Army event, during which he said the security of the 2020 elections is his top priority.


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