Home System concept Four questions for the French military cyber mission chief

Four questions for the French military cyber mission chief

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STUTTGART, Germany — France anticipates that its future military force will rely heavily on systems of systems, the networks of which are interconnected on the battlefield. From the Army’s Scorpion modernization program for new ground vehicles and communications systems to the Air and Space Force’s sixth-generation fighter in development with Germany, the growing capabilities connected will always require more cybersecurity.

The head of the DGA’s cyber mission, Chief Armament Engineer Bruno, shared some of the country’s top cyber priorities with Defense News.

Bruno’s surname redacted – a request from the French Ministry of the Armed Forces accepted by Defense News to publish this interview, which has been edited for length and clarity. This interview was conducted before the recent publication of France’s 2023 defense budget.

France’s defense budget for 2022 included around 231 million euros (231.5 million US dollars) for cyber systems. Where is the acquisition of these cyber systems, and what more is needed to strengthen France’s cyber capabilities?

The equipment associated with the cyber domain covers several areas:

  • Cyber ​​protection, including new encryption ranges, encryption key distribution and management systems, as well as the means necessary for access control, or the exchange of classified information on various operational systems.
  • Defensive cyber warfare, including the development and acquisition of attack detection systems capable of defending our most sensitive information systems and weapons, and defensive cyber warfare chain tools, i.e. i.e. the gradual modernization of systems under the French cyber defense command COMCYBER to identify and anticipate threats, conduct digital investigations and ensure the operational availability of units.
  • Cyberwarfare of influence: After the development in 2021 of a doctrine in this area, 2022 is a key year to equip the armies with the means to monitor, track and identify adversary maneuvers in the field of information.
  • Offensive cyber warfare: in particular with an approach of integrating offensive cyber capabilities into traditional military capabilities.

These areas of effort are implemented through a major equipment program piloted by the DGA, evolving in stages. The next tranche is expected to launch in late 2022 and includes a key milestone for the new secure mobile phone system for the benefit of the highest state authorities, as well as an order for NATO radio encryptors for our US partners.

How is France preparing for a hybrid war? What technology investments does this include? Artificial intelligence, cloud computing and big data?

France seeks to exploit the potential of technologies in the digital domain by processing very large volumes of data as well as information from artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

The Ministry for the Armed Forces has set up a project to bring together all the ministerial lines of action on artificial intelligence, resulting in the creation in 2019 of a unit dedicated to AI within the Agency for defense innovation. Artemis.IA, piloted by the Digital Defense Agency, aims to provide the Ministry with a secure and sovereign technical base for the massive processing of data from AI and algorithms adapted to defense needs.

Other programs integrating or expected to integrate AI include the Rafale fighter jet for automatic target detection and recognition, and the Contact radio program, which aims to improve voice quality and halve the bit rate needed to transmit an audio stream.

In terms of cloud computing, the objective is to provide our forces with the ability to transport, share, exploit in real time, store, administer and secure data in “plug and fight” mode with our allies and partners during a major operation, in the vein of the American concept of joint command and control for all domains. This is largely driven by the SIA program, intended to provide common C2 capabilities based on the integration and sharing of data between different domains – land, air, maritime and space – and different domains – digital, electromagnetic and cyber.

How will cyber systems figure into the Army’s Scorpion and Main Ground Combat System programs, and the Air Force’s Future Combat Air System program, as the government develops and integrates more autonomous and interconnected systems ?

An in-depth analysis of cybersecurity issues was conducted from the early design phases of Scorpion in order to minimize the attack surface of the system of systems. This incorporates protection measures at each architectural level — network segregation, securing external interfaces, authentication mechanisms, encryption, etc.

Both the FCAS and MGCS systems are currently in very preliminary stages. Typically, the work carried out at this stage includes the study of the threat and the formalization of the security objectives.

The common trend between these two systems is an increase in the interconnectivity of the platforms, with the aim of developing collaborative combat, which increases the attack surface. If tomorrow’s operational superiority depends on the digitization of our armed systems, our adversaries have understood the advantage they can obtain by exploiting this digitization. Anticipating and controlling this risk are two key parameters in the fight to preserve our operational superiority in the conflicts in which the armed forces are engaged.

These issues have been taken into account for the MGCS and the SCAF from the architectural studies, and will be further developed during the technological demonstration phases. The FCAS program, for example, aims to develop a discreet and resilient cross-platform link, which would serve as the first level of response to the cyber threat.

What is the DGA doing to get closer to French and European manufacturers in the field of cyber defense and warfare?

The DGA is the technical expert of the Ministry of the Armed Forces in the cyber domain. It strongly contributes to the development of the French cyber sector through its contribution to the national cyber acceleration strategy, and specific actions aimed at developing a network of sovereign industrial players — relying on multiple partnerships, for example with investment funds or with public and private actors. actors involved in the cyber campus located in the La Défense business district in Paris, where the DGA set up a team in the spring of 2022.

At European level, the nature of cyber defense projects and their particular sensitivity have so far limited the possibilities for cooperation. That said, France is investing in two European projects — Cyber ​​​​Rapid Response Toolbox for Defense Use and European Cyber ​​Situational Awareness Platform — in the field of defensive cyber warfare, which is the subject of a broad consensus at European level. .

This cooperation, based on national technical maturity, provides visibility on our capabilities and our doctrines, places our industry in an advantageous position at European level and contributes to European interoperability.

Vivienne Machi is a journalist based in Stuttgart, Germany, who contributes to Defense News’ European coverage. She previously worked for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defense Media Awards’ Best Young Defense Journalist in 2020.