23 December 2009

Peeping Toms Part Deux

This is quite possibly the most ridiculous article I’ve read in at least a week. A couple choice quotes from the USAF Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Lt Gen David Deptula:

“The hacked videos resulted in no significant impacts on operations and tactics”

“Meanwhile, the UAV operators and ground troops developed new tactics to prevent the enemy from doing harm by intercepting transmitted signals”

Having come out of Theater not too long ago, the only “new tactic” I can think of that was implemented was to actually run the platforms and ground-based downlink software (OS/RVT and Rover) how they were intended, in the pre-existing encrypted format. Why wasn’t everyone doing this from the start? Simple, the feed is awful. We’re talking awful to the point that the platform might as well not be in the air.

The Air Force continues to rush these platforms with existing bandwidth capabilities to Theater because UAS/UCAVs are probably about 75% of what they are contributing to Iraq and Afghanistan. From Lt Gen Deptula’s perspective, he may not have seen any significant impacts from data interception. But how do we know that there haven’t been any missions compromised? Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) conversion software is readily available on the internet. As William commented on my earlier post, the real danger comes from an enemy putting forth a concerted effort to protect their interests; Iran attempting to protect Quds Force operatives in Iraq or proxy forces (Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Houthi rebels in Yemen) from being targeted are prime examples of a country with the capability, need and willpower to execute this kind of operation.

In this context, I absolutely reject the assumption that these data intercepts are not potentially significant. How many “dry holes” on targeted raids did this SkyGrabber program contribute to? We’ll obviously never know. These data intercepts have the potential to not only impact Soldiers at the tactical level, but our strategic efforts from South America to Africa to SW Asia. It’s time to own up to a very serious deficiency in our architecture and develop a real solution.


  1. It's even worse when you consider that this may not be just limited to UAVs, but nearly every military aircraft as well:

  2. SBuck,
    Anything running Analog. The ridiculous part of all of this is that an encrypted downlink capability exists. It's essentially 360 degree garbage, but it's something and no one is even talking about it.

    Your Blogspot skills are obviously a little better than mine, so you're going to have to copy and paste my links below.

    ROVER 4 Info: http://www.l-3com.com/products-services/docoutput.aspx?id=1316

    Triple DES info: http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid14_gci968714,00.html