Skip to comments.Computer Codes Row Threatens £12bn Jet Order (JSF - US/UK)
Posted on 03/14/2006 6:09:34 PM PST by blam
Computer codes row threatens £12bn jet order
By Francis Harris in Washington
Britain threatened the United States yesterday that it will cancel its £12 billion order for the new Joint Strike Fighter unless America agrees to give the Armed Forces full access to the warplane's critical computer codes.
Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Procurement, issued the blunt warning as he arrived in Washington to address members of Congress.
Without full access to computer software the JSF could be switched off
The bad-tempered row not only threatens the 150-aircraft programme, but also the intimate Anglo-American military partnership.
Without full access to computer software, the next-generation aircraft would effectively remain under the control of the Americans and could be "switched off" without warning.
"I'm aware that the British can be accused of understatement on these things," Lord Drayson said. "We do expect this technology transfer to take place, but if it does not take place we will not be able to purchase these aircraft."
The programme is critical to Britain's much-trumpeted "expeditionary" strategy, which is based on two new multi-billion pound aircraft carriers.
The Royal Navy plans to equip the new 65,000-ton vessels with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), whose construction is being led by the US firm Lockheed Martin.
But Lord Drayson said that Britain had a "Plan B" and would implement it if an agreement with the Americans is not been signed by the end of the year.
He refused to offer details, but it is widely believed that this could involve the Royal Navy buying a new naval version of the Typhoon, or the French-built Rafale.
Lord Drayson said that talks with the Bush administration were going well. But the problem has little to do with America's government, which has been trying for five years to exempt Britain from stringent technology transfer rules.
A Republican congressional source said that the problem lay with the Pentagon, not with Congress.
The current US rules mean that British requests for almost anything linked to American technologies can take 20 days or more to get approval. British officers say that if applied to the JSF, it would severely restrict the aircraft's operational use.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Air Staff, who was accompanying Lord Drayson, said: "We have to be able to integrate our weapons, sensors, information and fuse them together on the [aircraft]. If we can't do it, then we won't be able to fight effectively. That's why this is absolutely critical."
whats plan B? buy a bunch of outdated French POS mirage fighters?
If the UK drops out of the F-35B, it will kill that variant. The Marine Corps order alone wouldn't be enough to justify full production.
It may even axe the entire F-35 program.
Seems like a necessary request.
You can't buy a warplane for which another nation holds the master key, obviously.
It will be interesting to see if the US Pentagon bends.
If not, France will be pleased to sell Rafales to Britain.
Then how soon till EADS "procures" this data and ends up in their military fighters.
hehe Jock Stirrup hehe
Physical possession of the aircraft would enable any 1st world nation to access and decompile an aircraft's software and firmware.
Thus, the UK is merely floating an official excuse to kill the JSF...something that we've wanted to kill for some great amount of time now.
Let it die. Paying Billions for manned fighters rarely makes sense in this Age.
Even stealth fighters are facing obsoletion now that Israel has fielded video-targeting anti-aircraft missiles (the handwriting is on the wall). Computer software can handle complex image processing now (both visual and infrared). So video missiles can hit the stealthiest of aircraft (because they aren't invisible).
We do still need manned fighters, and we need a few super fighters (that are likewise manned), but we don't need nearly so many variants of fighters as in the past.
So let the JSF program die, and thank the Brits for giving us a face-saving way to kill it.
That's the price you pay for selling your technology abroad.
If you want to make the money, then you have to accept that other people are going to exploit what you made and copy it.
If you want the military monopoly on that equipment, then you can't sell it to anybody.
The British aren't going to let the third option, preferred by the US: pay the money but not get the exploitable information, because that leaves the British military subject to an American veto, and that will never fly.
Better to have good planes bought in France that are yours than great planes bought in America that have an American power of veto over them.
I can't predict how this will come out, other than to say that the British are not going to buy the planes without the codes. So, it will either be Rafales (or perhaps Typhoons) and the Americans keep their codes and planes and don't get the cash...or it will be the American planes, and the Americans will fork over the codes.
I suppose a third option is for the Americans to embed a deeper level of coding into the equipment, and give the surface codes but not something buried deeper. Of course that's the sort of thing you can use once, and then nobody buys your stuff ever again. And you have to keep 100% secrecy forever on it.
I think the Brits would be silly if they bought the aircraft without source code. Im matters of national survival, one shouldn't just "trust".
"France would be pleased to sell anything to anyone anywhere."
Yes, France holds commerce and free trade dear.
"Give us the codes RIGHT NOW, or... or... or... - we'll buy INFERIOR AIRCRAFT!!!
Wait, that didn't come out right...."
That is absolutely not true. We regularly export weapons systems with embedded capabilities that are not accessible to the folks we sell them to regardless of their ability to "decompile" the software and firmware they contain. We've been doing it for decades and we are very comfortable with the results. That is all I'm going to say on that subject.
"Even stealth fighters are facing obsoletion now that Israel has fielded video-targeting anti-aircraft missiles"
That is not new technology. It also assumes you know the stealth aircraft is there in the first place. Which is hard to do without some form of radar.
It's a matter of national security for both sides. The UK shouldn't trust the US with their national security and the US shouldn't trust the Europeans.
We must have an override button in case the Europeans try to use American technology in South America.
We don't need to make $12 billion on military technology. We give billions more away in foreign handouts everyday.
Let me assure you that 1st world nations such as the UK and Israel and the U.S. can access and decompile any and all software and firmware in hardware that they possess.
You would have to download encrypted software on-the-fly on an as-needed basis to beat First World, state-supported hackers who have physical possession of said software/firmware/hardware.
Pentagon is full of idiots.
I actually pinged some professional code slingers so that you could get a second or third opinion from known authorities on the matter (i.e. "don't take my word for it").
Physical possession of the hardware by the best of state-supported (i.e. unlimited funds) hackers makes security very...mmm...problematic.
For example, the code in question must be decrypted prior to each instruction being executed by the CPU (otherwise the CPU doesn't know what to do). Well, with physical possession, a hacker can put physical electrodes onto the CPU inputs. This enables the hacker to see the instruction being executed.
Do that long enough and in many cases you'll have the whole software program.
And this is just one example of "possession hacking."
The brits were some of the biggest pushers of the JSF. They are building two new aircraft carriers designed around these planes.
They were the biggest reason the vertical takeoff version was required.
The brits love the versitility of these planes. They saw it as the next generation of the harrier.
The US marines will also be users of this variation.
I would have posted a reply earlier, but I've been having a difficult time stopping the laughter over what you said here. I'm just not ready, sorry.
The UK MoD professionals are highly reliable stewards of our technical info.
The traitors of the Cold War were MI6/Foreign Office political types.
The whole encryption circuit board could be encased in epoxy, which would make it very difficult to tap the circuit leads.
|CO2 Laser Drill|
Please note that under the conditions given in this thread that round the clock security by the U.S. would not be possible (because another nation would have physical possession).
Further, keep in mind that cryptographic security ceases to exist when the circuit decrypts the instruction for the CPU...the very point where a hacker would want to attach physical data probes.
We could add a little thermite and intrustion detection on the chip, encased in an opaque epoxy resin brick, just to be sure.
...and we're talking about the government labs of the U.S., the UK, or Israel.
OK, that would do away with the laser drill...but now they'd use progressive acid drips to get to target depth.
I'd be surprised if the box didn't have some sort of self-destruct mechanism. It could be triggered in the event of a crash or physical penetration of the case.
One would think.
But protecting data from a 1st World State-sponsored hacker with essentially unlimited funds and physical access is a difficult proposition...especially with something that has to be 100% functional in battle.
So what? By the time you get done decompiling all two million lines of Ada code to produce a pile of several bazillion opcodes - or if you're lucky, some sort of wacky C program that isn't itself compilable - and then putting all back together into an actually useable form, the plane will be obsolete. This is about being able to integrate their own systems into the thing, which you can easily do if you're provided the source code, and which you cannot do, as a practical matter, without the source, the theoretical possibility of reverse-engineering notwithstanding.
Great posts and discussion. With enough effort, and $, they could get the code, and eventually figure out most of what is going on, but to rebuild into any working system would require very considerable expese. The issue is not that, but clearly whether the US is going to accept the world's demand that all software become "open source", as championed by the U.N., and now finding it's way onto our front doorstep.
Another major story of this type involves Israel, another ally. They are attempting to purchase an open source company here in the US, and the deal has so far been blocked.
Both of these stories will be interesting to watch. It's my hope the government is finally becoming aware of the value of US "intellectual property" in general, and will block both of these deals, or at a minimum require much greater riches for their sale.