WASHINGTON — A U.S. Air Force mission defense team demonstrated the ability to conduct near real-time cyber threat analysis aboard an MC-130J Commando II for the first time earlier this year.

The first was executed by the 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron Mission Defense Team aboard an active MC-130J Commando II. It was the first time their capability was connected to an operational weapon system outside of the labs, according to an Air Force release.

Mission defense teams are specialized groups that protect critical Air Force missions and installations such as critical infrastructure or computers associated with aircraft and remotely piloted systems. They are separate from the cyber protection teams each of the services provide to U.S. Cyber Command.

The demonstration has led to approval for the team’s capabilities to be integrated into flight operations with the MC-130J while it is in flight.

“The MDT’s ability to provide near real-time mission system cyber analysis allows mission owners critical insight regarding the weapon system’s critical components and inputs,” said 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron MDT flight chief Master Sgt. Javier Parris. “Moreover, this capability can be utilized to enhance aircrew situational awareness, decreasing their time to react to emerging cyber intrusions.”

The Air Force said as of Dec. 8 the mission defense team successfully conducted an in-flight test of the new cyber suite aboard the MC-130J and it was the first time flight data had been collected in near real time to enable cyber defense of flight operations in flight. Specifically, the cyber analysis provided by the team could shape preventative maintenance functions for the aircraft and could predict requirements needed to harden operations.

“My squadron was tasked, as a Mission Defense Team pathfinder, to predict and overcome the challenges of the future strategic competition environment — specifically within communications contested or congested environments,” said Maj. Emily Short, commander of the 27th Special Operations Communications Squadron.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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