Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR OCT 2015 Contents DEFENCE SCIENCE
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 14 | Oct 2015
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 14 | Oct 2015
THE ‘GREMLINS’ PROGRAM – so named for the imaginary,
mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many
British pilots during World War II – seeks to show the feasibility
of conducting safe, reliable operations involving multiple air-
launched, air-recoverable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The
program also aims to verify that such systems (or Gremlins)
could provide significant cost advantages over expendable
systems, spreading out payload and airframe costs over multiple
uses instead of just one.
The program envisions launching groups of Gremlins from
large aircraft such as bombers or transport aircraft, as well as
from fighters and other small, fixed-wing platforms while those
planes are outside the engagement ranges of enemy air defences.
When the Gremlins complete their mission, a C-130 transport
aircraft would retrieve them in the air and carry them home,
THE US NAVY’S Office of Naval Research (ONR) is developing a
counter to the threat of cyber attack against ships at sea.
Recognising that cyber security is not restricted to data theft
from facilities or systems on land and that the threat extends
equally to wherever platforms are networked, ONR is progressing
with its Resilient Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical Security
(RHIMES) system. RHIMES is a cyber protection system
designed to make shipboard mechanical and electrical control
systems resilient to cyber attacks.
“The purpose of RHIMES is to enable us to fight through a
cyber attack,” said ONR Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral
Mat Winter. “This technology will help the Navy protect its
shipboard physical systems, but it may also have important
applications to protecting our nation’s physical infrastructure.”
Dr. Ryan Craven, a program officer of the Cyber Security and
Complex Software Systems Program in ONR’s Mathematics
Computer and Information Sciences Division, explained that
RHIMES is designed to prevent an attacker from disabling or
taking control of programmable logic controllers – the hardware
components that interface with physical systems on the ship.
“Some examples of the types of shipboard systems that
RHIMES is looking to protect include damage control and
firefighting, anchoring, climate control, electric power,
hydraulics, steering and engine control,” explained Craven. “It
essentially touches all parts of the ship.”
Whilst computer security systems protect against already
identified malicious code and are effectively reactive after the
event, hackers are able to stay one step ahead by simply making
minor changes to their virus to avoid detection.
“Instead, RHIMES relies on advanced cyber resiliency
techniques to introduce diversity and stop entire classes of
attacks at once,” Craven said.
Most physical controllers have redundant back-ups in place
that have the same core programming, he explained. These
back-ups allow the system to remain operational in the event of a
where ground crews would prepare them for their next mission
inside 24 hours.
DARPA plans to conduct a proof-of-concept flight
demonstration that could employ intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance and other modular, non-kinetic payloads,
expanding upon a request for information issued to industry
last year calling for novel concepts for distributed airborne
capabilities. DARPA will also leverage off its prior success in
developing automated aerial refueling capabilities and its ongoing
efforts to create advanced UAV capture systems for ships.
With an expected lifetime of about 20 uses, Gremlins could fill
an advantageous design-and-use space between existing models
of missiles and conventional aircraft, according to DARPA
project manager Dan Patt. “We wouldn’t be discarding the entire
airframe, engine, avionics and payload with every mission, as
is done with missiles, but we also wouldn’t have to carr y the
maintainability and operational cost burdens of today’s reusable
systems, which are meant to stay in service for decades,” he said.
To achieve the expected affordability, Gremlin systems would
need to utilise existing technology and impose only minor
modification requirements for host aircraft.
The Gremlins program will explore the following technical
• Launch and recovery techniques, equipment and aircraft
• Low-cost, limited-life airframe designs
• High-fidelity analysis, precision digital flight control, relative
navigation and station keeping.
– Matthew Mendenhall
DARPA deploys Gremlins
The US Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) has initiated a technology
program that could enable cheaper
and more effective distributed air
MORE FLEXIBLE, LESS COST
THE CYBER PARADOX
For decades, US military air operations have relied on increasingly
capable multi-function manned aircraft to execute critical combat and
non-combat missions. Adversaries’ abilities to detect and engage those
aircraft from longer ranges have improved over time as well, however,
driving up the costs for vehicle design, operation and replacement.
An ability to send large numbers of small unmanned air systems (UAS)
with co-ordinated, distributed capabilities could provide US forces with
improved operational flexibility at much lower cost than is possible with
today’s expensive, all-in-one platforms – especially if those unmanned
systems could be retrieved for reuse while airborne. So far, however,
the technology to project volleys of low-cost, reusable systems over
great distances and retrieve them in mid-air has remained out of
reach. – DARPA
Today our whole force is coming to understand these two truths:
our mastery of cyberspace puts a hefty weapon in our hands; and our
reliance on cyberspace places a weighty vulnerability in our path.
Recent world events have underscored this two-edged quality of
cyberspace. Our adversaries are flexing their muscles and have proven
the vulnerability of our assets – governmental, commercial, academic,
and military – posing serious risks to our nation’s security and missions
that we as a navy are executing around the globe every day.
America’s long-enjoyed military superiority does not extend
automatically to cyberspace; we will have to earn it. Simultaneously, we
are being challenged in our traditional strongholds of electromagnetic
spectrum and space.
Paradoxically, both our prosperity and strength now depend largely on
these three overlapping domains, so they are both an advantage and a
– US Fleet Cyber Command/Tenth Fleet, Strategic Plan 2015-2020
LEFT: DARPA’s ‘Gremlins’ would be deployed from large aircraft
and retrieved in flight for further use. Image: DARPA
ABOVE: The US Navy has recognised the vulnerability of ships to
cyber attack and is taking steps to make shipboard mechanical
and electrical control systems more resilient.
controller failure. But without diversity in their programming, if
one gets hacked, they all get hacked.
“Functionally, all of the controllers do the same thing,
but RHIMES introduces diversity via a slightly different
implementation for each controller’s program,” Craven
explained. “In the event of a cyber attack, RHIMES makes it
so that a different hack is required to exploit each controller.
The same exact exploit can’t be used against more than one
ONR’s work on RHIMES aligns with higher level strategic
guidance to protect against cyber threats, including the Navy’s
‘Cyber Power 2020’ and Cyber Command’s ‘Strategic Plan 2015-
ONR also sees RHIMES having potential in the commercial
world wherever computing interacts with the physical world,
such as factories, vehicles and aircraft. – Staff Reporters
developing cyber defence at sea
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