Training the future military decision-makers of the French Air and Space Force, the French Air and Space Force Academy is naturally developing strong expertise in the key areas of tomorrow's defense. Cyber defense has clearly become a strategic priority for the Ministry of the Armed Forces, which is why the French Air and Space Force Academy has created a center of excellence in cyber defense for the aerospace environment.
CENTER OF EXCELLENCE FOR AEROSPACE CYBER DEFENSE
Most contemporary power struggles, crises and conflicts now include digital space, making cyberspace a warfighting domain in its own right. Present in nearly any activity in any environment (land, air, sea, outer space), cyberspace intersects with every other field of confrontation.
The recent upsurge in cyber-attacks, particularly on military systems (800 attacks in 2018 alone), demonstrates the wide field of action for attackers whose major objectives are espionage, illicit trafficking, destabilization, and sabotage. These computer attacks “are likely to seriously undermine the nation's interests at any time,” and therefore France “must adapt its cyber defense posture to better enforce its digital sovereignty." (Cyber Defense Strategic Review 2018)
"In the military field, the growing dependence of weapons or command systems on digital technologies makes them ever more vulnerable to this threat." (Strategic Review 2017)
Due to the highly technological weapons and information systems it implements, the French Air Force and Space Force is heavily involved in the development of military cyber defense and cyber security.
Articulation of military action in cyberspace
The Air and Space Force Academy, which trains tomorrow's air force officers, is developing solid expertise in key technological fields for the French Air and Space Force, most notably cyber defense.
Its teaching and research network is already deeply involved in cyber defense, with a Chair in Aerospace Cyber-Resilience, a cyber simulation platform, and basic instruction for officer cadets, as well as numerous partnerships within higher education and the aerospace industry. Because the unique nature of aerospace systems requires specific expertise, in 2018 the Air and Space Force Academy committed to ramping up its Center of Excellence for Aerospace Cyber Defense.
The center's expertise is based on the Academy’s ability to mobilize partners from all horizons, as well as its own human resources, around one strategic objective: mastering cyber defense in the conduct of air operations.
Today the CEC is an incubator at the crossroads of a complex ecosystem, capable of managing joint projects federating stakeholders in research, industry, and the military.
While not intended to replace existing civilian and military organizations in the cyber domain, the CEC seeks to take advantage of the Air and Space Force Academy’s unique position, in direct contact with military experts, researchers and economic partners. Consequently, the CEC’s missions are centered on three pillars :
- Supporting the training provided at the Air and Space Force Academy: developing basic and advanced skills in air force officers through courses, projects, or internships; setting up pre-projection qualification training; developing professional training open to civilians. In this area, the CEC is contributing to the creation of a Master's degree program specializing in cybersecurity, which should open in September 2019;
- Playing a pivotal role in innovation: permanently monitoring technological developments; establishing diversified partnerships (Air Force and Space Force, joint forces, Ministry of Armed Forces, civilian companies); hosting research and simulation work; remaining attentive to the needs of the armed forces and proposing innovative solutions.
- Maintaining close links with the operational actors of cyber defense: contributing to operational preparations, with the aim of fostering innovation and improving training programs. This experience-sharing will contribute to the RETEX (feedback) chains of the French Air and Space Force, and on a joint level, to the aerospace cyber environment.
All these activities are based on a powerful simulation platform called Hynesim. This platform, which is interoperable with other military academies, can generate complete and complex simulated computer environments used for training, research and experimentation. Its hybrid functionalities also offer the possibility of linking a virtual network to real equipment.