Cyber Attacks More Likely to Bring Down F-35 Jets Than Missiles

In our ever-increasing digitalized world of cybersecurity, threats keep growing.
Fabienne Lang
An illustration of a F35 fighter jetDigtialStorm/iStock

In our ever-increasing digitalized world cybersecurity threats keep growing — and advanced jet fighters such as the F-35 are no exception. 

As the military improves combat and safety options by relying more and more on computer processing, algorithms, and interconnected networks, major platforms, and weapons systems have a higher chance of undergoing cyber attacks. 

Cybersecurity and attacks

Even though turning to the cyber world increases the safety and combat potential of the military, it also leaves it more open to online attacks. 

Take the F-35 fighter jet, for instance. It's been called the "flying computer" thanks to its myriad new contraptions that include AI-like sensor fusion, 360-degree camera views, improved data links, a database of threat information at-the-ready, and a highly advanced computerized logistics systems. 

So even though the F-35 has an incredibly advanced system, it can also potentially be attacked by unknown online forces, and no longer only those in plain sight. So instead of seeing an incoming missile, the F-35 pilot's weapon guidance could be derailed, their threat data could be compromised, or their flight path destroyed. 

Such cyber threat has not come as a new, unsuspected element for Air Force cybersecurity specialists, or Lockheed Martin developers, all of whom have been working had in the past years to secure weapons systems and major platforms against such attacks. 

For example, there's the Air Force's Cyber Resilience Office for Weapons Systems, or CROWS, which is an office that's been established for a few years for this precise eventuality. CROWS is designed to bring about the best ideas and strategies to anticipate potential enemy cyberattacks.

Even though the highly-digitalized F-35 is a good example of how dependent newer military systems can be on the cyber world, there are many other military systems and weapons that are moving in that direction. To name but one example: military UAVs or drones rely chiefly on guidance systems, and if these were to end up as cyber targets for enemies, who knows what could happen. 

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