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.
Five new Batch 2 River-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to be built for the Royal Navy by BAE Systems’ Glasgow shipyards will be fitted with Servowatch’s Integrated Platform Management Systems (IPMS). Servowatch made the announcement that it had been awarded the contract by the MoD this week. The IPMS provides propulsion, electrical and auxiliary systems management from multi-function workstations with a high degree of automation to reduce demands on the crew.
Andrew Burns, Sales and Marketing Director at Servowatch said in a press release;
With military vessels increasing in complexity, systems integration is key to ensuring the functionality of critical components. Servowatch has introduced its most powerful IPMS solution allowing more commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product integration. It reduces platform cost, integration time and commissioning, whilst retaining the survivability and power of the original Servowatch product.
The new Batch 2 River-class vessels will be modified versions of a similar class built for the Brazilian and Royal Thai navies. They will feature greater storage space, improved accommodation facilities and a flight deck capable of operating the Merlin naval helicopter. The first four ships of the class are already under construction with the fifth due to start this year.
Originally there were to be three ships in the class but in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review it was announced that another six vessels would be built. However, in 2016 it was confirmed that the order would be five.
Staff within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were left unable to access their online work accounts in the wake of a botched system update. The situation was deemed so serious the MoD had to launch an unofficial mission, named Operation Cavella, to get the system working again. The system update revolved around the commercial Microsoft Office software and affected personnel intermittently across September and October.
Approximately 90% of the MoD’s entire workforce were affected including senior members of staff at Whitehall. Military facilities and barracks across the UK were unable to log in to the MoD network and sailors, soldiers and airmen were unable to access their internal emails. None of the MoD’s top secret computer networks were apparently affected as they use different software.
A spokesperson for the MoD said that the problem had now been rectified and services were back to normal.