Modern Day Fighter Escort

Air Force cyber warriors are on the cutting edge of some of USAF’s most in-demand missions in ways that sometimes aren’t immediately apparent, said two top cyber officials at AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles last week. “The [remotely piloted aircraft] is a great example of how cyber is tied to an Air Force mission,” said CMSgt. Kevin Slater, 24th Air Force’s command chief, during a presentation on Nov. 17 with Maj. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, the numbered air force’s commander. Consider the complexity of commanding and controlling an aircraft flying thousands of miles away, and, more importantly, moving the data that vehicle is collecting—and ensuring the data are protected, they said. “Nobody developed RPAs to be efficient,” said Vautrinot, noting that there are 40 to 80 “touch points” of potential vulnerability in the network of a given RPA. It is the airmen in 24th AF’s 624th Operations Center at Lackland AFB, Tex., who know what those points are and how to protect them, they said. In fact, these cyber airmen have tail numbers that they watch from across the world, making this “the 21st Century equivalent to fighter escort,” said Slater.