Japan-American partnership builds cyber defense capacity

Members of U.S. Pacific Air Forces and Japan Air Self-Defense Force visited the 552nd Air Control Networks Squadron to build cyber-defense capacity, April 4-10.

The 552nd ACNS is the Air Force lead Mission Defense Team for tactical command and control systems, including the E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System and ground-based Control and Reporting Centers. They are the only MDT in the Air Force to perform missions inside the skin of an aircraft, defending against adversaries in cyberspace.

“The knowledge and experience gained by visiting the 552nd ACNS will help shape the overall cyber defense strategy for the Japanese Weapon Systems,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Ali Syed, Pacific Air Forces Cyber Defense and Mission Assurance deputy chief. “At PACAF we will incorporate the knowledge gained into our command’s MDT force array and employment concepts as we execute our staff mission to organize, train, and equip.”

Koku-Jieitai, JASDF, Lt. Col. Akio Ohigashi, is a liaison to PACAF Headquarters from Air Defense Command, deployed for coordination and information sharing about network operations with PACAF staff.

“Ministry of Defense is currently conducting the study of technology for responding to cyber attacks targeting intelligence processing system within equipment,” Ohigashi said. “The achievement from this visit will make JASDF’s future cyber defense posture strong.”

During the visit, members of the 552nd ACNS MDT composed of cyber operators from a variety of backgrounds, explained the capabilities of a deployable cyber defense weapon system, Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter.

When a cyber-defense mission is tasked, a MDT crew plans and briefs the mission before operating on an AWACS or Control and Reporting Center cyber terrain, just like an aircrew.

“I was able to learn how 552nd ACNS developed their MDT and how their MDT is protecting their mission system from cyber threats,” said Capt. Shumpei Kawano, an exchange officer from Japan working as the Assistant Director of Operations for the 747th Communications Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

“The 747 CS is now transforming from a Communications Squadron to a Cyber Squadron and developing their own MDT, this experience and knowledge will be helpful for us,” Kawano said.

Kawano is a part of the U.S. Air Force Defense Personnel Exchange Program which allows a foreign air forces officer the opportunity to embed. He will be the first exchange officer to attend the U.S. Air Force Cyber Protect and Defend Course at the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in East Tennessee. Following graduation he will work as a MDT operator with the 747 CS.

“Information sharing with partners such as the U.S. Forces is one of the six pillars of our comprehensive defense measures against cyber attack,” Ohigashi said. “This opportunity will be a trigger to strengthen our partnership.”

Syed emphasizes the importance of fostering international relationships with coalition and global partners for future contingencies.

“Response to any future competition, crisis, or conflict in our Area of Responsibility will be as a joint force, with all our military branches and most importantly with our allies and partners, in this case the Koku Jieitai,” Syed said.

Senior Airman Gabriel Coleman, 552 Air Control Networks Squadron, and Master Sgt. Christopher Bailey, Pacific Air Command A3/6, explain the capabilities of a deployable cyber defense weapon system, Cyberspace Vulnerability Assessment/Hunter, to Lt. Col. Akio Ohigashi and Capt. Shumpei Kawano from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. The system is used by the 552 ACNS Mission Defense Team to defend the 552nd Air Control Wing's Control & Reporting Centers and E-3 fleet and ground systems from cyber threats. (Air Force photo by Kimberly Woodruff)

Senior Airman Gabriel Coleman, 552nd Air Control Networks Squadron, and Master Sgt. Christopher Bailey, Pacific Air Command A3/6, explain the capabilities of the deployable cyber defense weapon system to Lt. Col. Akio Ohigashi and Capt. Shumpei Kawano from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, April 8, 2021, Ticker Air Force Base, Okla. The system is used by the 552nd ACNS Mission Defense Team to defend the 552nd Air Control Wing’s Control & Reporting Centers and E-3 Sentry fleet and ground systems from cyber threats. (Air Force photo by Kimberly Woodruff)

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