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Air Force launches first cyberspace weapons system

January 20, 2016 (Photo Credit: Gina Randall/U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force earlier this month reached full operational capability in its Air Force Intranet Control (AFINC) Weapon System, which service officials say is the first cyberspace weapons system to reach FOC status.

AFINC reaching FOC means that the system “is fully capable to serve as the top-level defensive boundary and entry point for all network traffic into AFINC,” according to an Air Force release. The system comprises 16 gateway suites whittled down from more than 100 regionally managed network entry points that were consolidated or replaced.

The system also consists of 15 nodes for the Defense Department’s classified SIPRNet network, more than 200 service delivery points and two integrated management suites. It’s all centrally operated by the 26th Network Operations Squadron (NOS), based at Gunter Annex in Montgomery, Alabama.

“As the first line of defense for our network, the 26th NOS team is responsible for more than one billion firewall, web, and email blocks per week from suspicious and adversarial sources,” Col Pamela Woolley, 26th Cyberspace Operations Group commander, said in the release. "Our network is under constant attack and it is a testament to the dedication of our 26th NOS team that our network reliability and traffic flow remains consistently high.”

The launch of AFINC comes amid an increased, service-wide emphasis on cyber. AFINC officially was designated as a weapons system in March 2013 by the Air Force Chief of Staff, reaching initial operating capability just over a year later. In April 2015, the Air Force launched its internal Task Force Cyber Secure, a service-wide effort to synchronize Air Force operations, governance and understanding of the cyber domain.

Last month, Air Force CIO Lt Gen William Bender said the task force underscores the fact that cyber has become pervasive in how the Air Force carries out its missions and business.

“It has been a tremendous success just by taking action and doing it. It was conspicuous, the absence and lack of discussion around cybersecurity,” Bender said Dec. 2 at the AFCEA Nova Air Force IT Day in Vienna, Virginia. “Now we have an ongoing dialog at highest levels, with the secretary, the chief, all of the [functional components]. We’re putting money against this and we have really changed the game for Air Force going forward.”

According to the Air Force, other cyberspace weapons systems besides AFINC include the Air Force Cyberspace Defense Weapon System, the Cyber Security and Control System Weapon System, the Cyber Command and Control Mission System Weapon System, the Cyberspace Defense Analysis Weapon System, and the Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter Weapon System.

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