Thursday, March 28, 2019

Are We Missing the Real Threat to the F-35?

Perhaps I'm overly worried because of the Cylon destruction of the Colonial fleet in Battlestar Galactica, but how secure are the networks that make the F-35 such a good fighter plane?

The pilots still love the F-35:

In my interviews with F-35 pilots, one word repeatedly came up: “survivability.” Surviving the Lockheed Martin F-35’s primary mission—to penetrate sophisticated enemy air defenses and find and disable threats—requires what the fifth-generation jet offers: stealth and a stunning array of passive and active sensors bringing information to the pilot. The F-35 can see trouble coming—ahead, behind, or below the aircraft—far enough in advance to avoid a threat or kill it. Faced with multiple threats, the sensor suite recommends the order in which they should be dispatched.

That pilot confidence seems justifiable. And it is a relief when you consider that the Russian propaganda tried to derail the production of the plane.  But what I really want to know now is what the computer programmers think of the plane and the networks built around it. As I noted in a past data dump:

Pilots love the F-35. Will hackers love it, too? I worried about the software vulnerability despite pilot raves in exercises before Israeli pilots had a chance to fly the plane in a combat environment. And I worried about the ALIS system before the plane could even be flown in exercises. But at least I'm no longer worried about the plane and its fighting concept itself--which Russia really tried to kill with information operations.

But what do the cyber-people think of the F-35? As one pilot in the initial article explained when extolling its survivability:

Fighter aircraft all have to have a level of performance and maneuverability: speed, Gs, turn rate, turn radius, acceleration, climb—all of those things. In the F-35, there’s not a massive change in those performance metrics. The F-35 is better [than legacy aircraft], but not a lot better. But those ways to measure an airplane are not nearly as relevant now as they used to be. They’re not irrelevant, but they are not as important as all the other qualities that you should be measuring an airplane by.

I'm worried that one of those more relevant qualities is security against hacking. How is that measured with the F-35? Did the plane get survivability against kinetic threats only to lose it to hackers?