This weekend, the Royal Navy will be conducting naval exercises off the coast of Scotland along with several NATO allies under Exercise Joint Warrior. The exercise will test ships and their crews in a range of scenarios that could be realistically encountered on operations across the globe including countering terrorist activity and piracy. As part of the overall exercise the Royal Navy will also be undertaking Exercise Information Warrior 17 which will be the service’s first large-scale cyber warfare exercise.
It will also mark the debut of a new artificial intelligence (AI) system called STARTLE that aims to greatly improve situational awareness and response times. STARTLE continuously monitors and evaluates potential threats by utilising the intricate sensor suite aboard a warship and using its own artificial intelligence to effect an appropriate response. The software is actually based along similar lines to the way the human brain works by emulating the human fear response mechanism. In a sense it would act like a digital colleague to the Principal Warfare Officer and will allow the command team to make more informed decisions at a much faster rate thus saving vital seconds in combat.
Speaking about the exercise, Fleet Commander of the Royal Navy, Vice Admiral Ben Key CBE said;
We must use information as a weapon in itself, to deliver effects with greater precision in both time and space; protect our information effectively; better integrate a comprehensive approach to planning; and exploit technology.
Information Warrior 17 will build on experience the Royal Navy gained last year under Unmanned Warrior 2016 and in addition to trialling AI systems it will also evaluate Royal Navy vessels’ abilities to resist cyber attacks. The increasing use of wireless technology to transmit information between military units has opened up a potential new weakness which a sophisticated enemy could exploit either by disrupting the signal thus reducing a force’s overall effectiveness or even sending contradictory information/instructions. With China, Iran, Russia and North Korea all having shown a willingness to manipulate events across the world through cyberspace, the west and NATO in particular have placed greater emphasis on countering these potential adversaries on the 4th dimension battlefield.