Cyber warriors could start using the first tools from a next generation cyber weapon system as early this spring.
U.S. Cyber Command’s Unified Platform aims to provide cyber warriors the infrastructure, information sharing capabilities, data analytics, mission planning and command and control tools they need to conduct cyber missions. National security experts have described Unified Platform as the “cyber carrier” in which the Department of Defense’s cyber warriors will plan and launch offensive and defensive cyber operations.
The Air Force, working as U.S. Cyber Command’s executive agent awarded a $54 million contract for the Unified Platform to Northrop Grumman in October. Air Force leaders expect a minimally viable product in the spring.
That timeline is “about three and a half years ahead of what it would have delivered under a more traditional acquisition approach,” Susan Thornton, director for information dominance programs, office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition said Dec. 4 at an AFCEA-hosted event.
The Air Force had already approved the use of rapid acquisition funds to speed up the process for Unified Platform and deliver incremental capability through prototyping.
The Air Force will be using Section 804 authorities to procure Unified Platform.
Thornton added that the team is expected to have their software factory up and running in March of next year.
This is likely be welcome news to the user community, which is currently operating on a variety of systems throughout the various services.
All the service components are providing input on the development of the next-generation cyber operations platform.
“We’re the user … We want capabilities in no later than six-month increments,” Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner, commander of 24th Air Force/Air Forces Cyber, told Fifth Domain in a November interview.
“In the Air Force, we’re the happy nudgers [to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center] to kind of produce things quicker.”
Thornton said that the Air Force is working with Cyber Command and other services to better understand how the Unified Platform can help the entire community. This includes a council of colonels that meets regularly.
Additionally, Thornton added that funding for Unified Platform comes from all the services, not just the Air Force and Cyber Command.
“They all bring money to the table as well as requirements to the table to accomplish that program,” she said. “I think you’ll see that continuing … we hope to keep going because it’s necessary in order to meet the needs of all the services and CYBERCOM.”