The U.S. military is accelerating its cyberwarfare training programs in an aggressive expansion of its preparations for conflict on an emerging battlefield.
The renewed emphasis on building up cyberwarfare capabilities comes even as other defense programs have been trimmed. Along with unmanned aircraft and special operations, cyberwarfare is among the newer, more high-tech and often more secretive capabilities favored by the Pentagon’s current leadership.
In June, the U.S. Air Force’s elite Weapons School—the Air Force version of the Navy’s famed “Top Gun” program—graduated its first class of six airmen trained to fight in cyberspace. The new course, at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, trains airmen how to hunt down electronic intruders, defend networks and launch cyberattacks
“While cyber may not look or smell exactly like a fighter aircraft or a bomber aircraft, the relevancy in any potential conflict in 2012 is the same,” said Air Force Col. Robert Garland, commandant of the Weapons School. “We have to be able to succeed against an enemy that wants to attack us in any way.”
The training effort comes amid a push by the Obama administration to rapidly deploy offensive and defensive techniques across the government, including at the Central Intelligence Agency, other intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
Cyberwarfare techniques have been used in an apparent U.S. and Israeli campaign to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, elements of which were reported last month by the New York Times. The U.S. also contemplated using cyberweapons to incapacitate Libyan air defenses in 2011, before the start of U.S. air strikes.
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