U.S. cyber forces enhance security of nation’s nuclear triad

U.S. cyber forces enhance security of nation’s nuclear triad

U.S. Strategic Command

Integrated deterrence is the foundation of the United States’ defense strategy, and interdependence across all domains is critical to effective deterrence.

Prioritized and focused efforts are required to reduce cyber vulnerabilities in the conventional, nuclear and cyber domains.

To that end, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) partnered to deploy a cyber protection team (CPT) to Fairford, England, in October 2021 to enhance the information system and network security of the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B Lancer bombers.

The two unified combatant commands next turned their sights toward the cybersecurity of U.S. strategic assets in the maritime domain. In January 2022, USSTRATCOM again partnered with USCYBERCOM to conduct multidomain operations, with USCYBERCOM deploying a CPT to rendezvous with the nuclear-powered, ballistic-missile submarine USS Nevada and an E-6B Mercury TACAMO, or Take Charge And Move Out, command-and-control aircraft in the U.S. territory of Guam.

The CPT enhanced the continued reliability and resilience of U.S. Navy strategic information and communication systems in support of USSTRATCOM’s nuclear operations mission and defended against malicious cyber actors while deployed to Guam. (Pictured: The U.S Navy ballistic-missile submarine USS Nevada arrives at Naval Base Guam on January 15, 2022.)

Submarine-launched ballistic missiles, such as those carried by the USS Nevada, are the most survivable leg of the U.S. nuclear triad, which also includes long-range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The E-6B, meanwhile, is a key component of the U.S. nuclear command, control and communications (NC3) architecture, which is the means by which the U.S. president exercises authority over the nation’s nuclear capabilities.

Reliable NC3 is essential for maintaining strategic deterrence and for enabling nuclear options if required. The USSTRATCOM commander’s priority is maintaining a ready, credible and capable nuclear force, including NC3, which is the backbone of the nuclear mission.

This is vital considering current world events, which could hold significant implications for USSTRATCOM operations. It is imperative that the U.S. remains ready and able to execute nuclear operations to defend against potential adversaries.

USSTRATCOM and USCYBERCOM understand that the reliability, resilience and interoperability of NC3 are of the utmost importance in confronting the broad range of challenges that threaten these systems and networks.

Faced with threats from the People’s Republic of China, Russia and others, the U.S. continues to harden critical networks and systems, including strategic air and maritime assets, against adversary interference across all domains. USCYBERCOM’s deployment of defensive cyber maneuver forces in support of USSTRATCOM strategic assets represents a significant step in defending critical U.S. systems. Other actions are being taken in parallel to harden the NC3 architecture and to ensure that the U.S. military maintains a secure, effective and combat-ready strategic deterrent force.

The NC3 enterprise remains ready and fully capable of meeting the evolving challenges of today and beyond. As demonstrated by the cyber operations in Fairford and Guam, USSTRATCOM, supported by USCYBERCOM, will continue to assess and employ defensive cyber maneuver forces to defend critical information systems and networks from malicious cyber actors, both in the U.S. and globally.

As USSTRATCOM and USCYBERCOM expand their partnership to enhance the protection of NC3 against adversarial threats, they will continue to ensure that U.S. national and military leaders are ready and able to respond to any threat in a time, domain and manner of their choosing.