Five Eyes alliance eyes military technology enablers
Published 21 October 2020
In an era of rising peer rivals, secure connectivity is an essential capability for the Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence alliance. The five nations are pursuing a range of advances to achieve this goal, from technologies in satellite communications (SATCOM) to cyber and electromagnetic activities (CEMA).
FVEY is a grouping of long-time military and intelligence allies: US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The alliance traces its origins to the end of the Second World War and the onset of the Cold War, with the member states bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement for joint cooperation in defence intelligence, HUMINT and SIGINT.
The world is growing more challenging for the alliance, which is today faced with its most potent state rivals since the fall of the Soviet Union, in the form of Russia and China. This is on top of the threat from aggressive regional powers such as Iran and North Korea.
The international order and threats are changing, while there remains a need to maintain campaign momentum against violent extremist organisations, according to General David Goldfein, then chief of staff of the US Air Force (USAF), speaking at the Chief of the Air Staff’s Air & Space Power Conference (ASPC) in London in July 2019 .
Infographic by Viasat
Listen to Gen David Goldfein on the Five Eyes Connectivity Podcast
Hear the full introduction or skip to 00:06:30 to hear General Goldfein's comments.
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In his address, Gen Goldfien argued that the world was shifting towards new actors and more complex threats. State competition has returned, and ‘is taking on non-traditional forms such as malign influence and the information environment, like little green men acting as proxies’.
Within this complexity, the future of economic information and security interests are becoming increasingly intertwined. On top of this, ‘we’re all wrestling with the accelerating advance of technology, a fact that introduces both new challenges and new opportunities’.
Indeed, the opportunities and challenges of technology can be seen in a variety of domains, although some are particularly crucial.
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For example, speaking at the same conference, then UK Secretary of State for Defence Penny Mordaunt highlighted the importance of space, which provides armed forces with communications, critical intelligence, surveillance and navigation tools.
However, ‘while satellites underpin our national banking, transport and communication networks, our competitors are doing all they can to disrupt access to these services’, Mordaunt explained.
‘China has tested hit to kill intercepting missiles, increasing deadly debris and threatening every sovereign space enterprise,’ she said.
‘Russia is conducting sophisticated orbital activities, developing missile interceptors to threaten satellite and electronic warfare systems to jam satellite signals. Non-state hackers and cyber hackers have the potential to scramble satellite data and manipulate earth observation data to gain advantage.’
As a result of the upsurge in the electronic warfare threat, Five Eyes' military services are now considering the use of different applications and technologies to avoid disruption to SATCOM. Options include a greater reliance on commercial SATCOM providers, to ‘hide in the noise’ of greater amounts of radio traffic.
There is also increased use of advanced, extremely high-frequency satellite systems, aimed at providing survivable anti-jam and low probability of intercept or detection SATCOM connectivity.
Finally, there are developments in on-the-move antennas to avoid interference and detection by enemy forces, as well as supporting more discreet operations.
Colonel Cameron Stoltz, director of space requirements with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RACF), notes that space capabilities are now central to military operations, particularly for a country like Canada with a very large landmass and a relatively small population concentrated around its southern border with the US. This means that communications are challenging in the north of the country.
Col Stoltz highlights the importance of partnering with other countries, such as the US; Canada is participating in the US-led Advanced EHF (Extremely High Frequency) network and the wide-band global SATCOM or WGS constellation.
‘The reliance of militaries on space-based capabilities to carry out day-to-day operations is only growing, so it is in our collective interest to strive for stronger cooperation with partners and allies in the space domain,’ he says.
Tactical data links are a second major focus for FVEY members as they turn their gaze to the future.
Data links are the backbone of any modern armed service, supporting communication between individual soldiers and units at the bottom end up to an entire deployed force or during allied joint operations at the highest level of complexity.
In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that the ability of military elements to cooperate is only as effective as the data links that can facilitate the required transfer of information.
Since the 1980s, the ability of units to communicate with each other has centred around the US-developed Link 16 data link.
The Link 16 waveform has proven useful over the past three decades, but new challenges are emerging as military forces develop platforms and capabilities that require a more enhanced form of communications in networking. There are additional requirements for increased throughput capacity and security.
Ken Peterman, president of government systems at Viasat, a leader in satellite communications, networking and related technologies, says that his company is updating the Link 16 network to help cope with the demands of the modern battlefield.
ABOVE: The U-60 has been outfitted with a number of resilient SATCOM capabilities.
For example, Viasat is involved in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles XVI programme , which will deliver and test the first ever Link 16 capable low Earth orbit satellite.
A third area of technological opportunity – and threat – is cyber-focused warfare.
Captain Erik Pittman, J6 deputy director at US Indo-Pacific command , notes that the electromagnetic spectrum is completely different than it was even ten years ago, pointing to the proliferation of new radios, mobile phones, wi-fi and other technologies, which have increased congestion.
Listen to Capt Erik Pittman in Episode 3 of the Five Eyes Connectivity Podcast
Listen to the full episode or skip to 00:01:28 as well as 00:04:55 to hear Pittman's comments.
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Additionally, if operators continue to use the same portions of the electromagnetic spectrum repeatedly, their operating patterns and parameters and so on could become known and vulnerable to adversaries.
‘In order to make ourselves less vulnerable, the goal is to operate more agilely within the electromagnetic spectrum… from there, we get the term electromagnetic manoeuvre warfare. So we're manoeuvring our capabilities within the spectrum in order to maximise the continued use of those capabilities and to prevent us from being cut off from the rest of our forces,’ Capt Pittman says.
Peterman explains that Viasat implements cybersecurity as a holistic part of its design and development process , so that when it builds a network, the cybersecurity architecture is integrated from the very beginning.
Listen to Ken Peterman in Episode 3 of the Five Eyes Connectivity Podcast
Skip to 00:09:23 on Episode 3 above to hear Peterman's comments.
That is critically important because bolting a cybersecurity capability onto a network is never going to be as effective as designing it holistically and to be an inherent part of the network design.’
He emphasises the growing focus on multi-domain operations and its impact on connectivity demands. This concept, involving the increased coordination and integration of land, sea, air, cyber and space components, will have a major impact on situational awareness demands.
‘If you go back 30 or 40 years, a soldier in a foxhole really only cared about what was within a kilometre of them. If it wasn't within the range of their weapon, it really didn't matter… Today that's completely different.’
Modernisation is not defined solely by hardware, noted Gen Goldfein – it requires changes in the way militaries organise, train, develop and employ forces.
Success in the future ‘will depend less on individual capabilities and more on our integrating strengths as a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ’, he said. ‘An integrated and a collaborative approach is central to unleashing the potential of multi-domain operations.’