Northrop Planning “Cyber Resilient” Next-Gen Jet

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Defence manufacturer Northrop Grumman is tackling one of the biggest developing problems of fighter jets: cyber risk. Tom Vice, President at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corporation, showcased his plan for a long-range, potentially unmanned, fighter jet. The proposed aircraft will be armed with laser weapons and equipped with advanced “cyber resiliency” systems against the growing cyber threat.

The Pentagon is now working on concepts for a sixth-generation fighter that will see the air in the 2030s. Last year, the US Air Force began the selection process to determine which technologies will ensure American air supremacy in the future. Industry has been quick to follow the changing winds, with Boeing releasing several concept designs, and Lockheed reportedly working on ideas of their own.

Northrop, a subcontractor on the fifth-generation F-35, will try to win the coveted prime contractor spot for the next generation of fighter. The company is taking part in several studies to determine what performance the future jet will need to have.

One of the key issues facing jets going forward is the protection of data and communications in an increasingly hostile cyber environment. The government can’t stop all cyber attacks, Vice said, rather, the focus needs to be on intrusion detection and damage prevention.

“The human body today is susceptible to infection, so the idea of blocking at the skin surface any infection entering the skin — it’s just impossible to do. The question is, when you are infected, what does your body do?” Vice said. “Your body has an incredible system called white blood cells that attack and try to manage that virus in such a way that prevents it from harming the body. The systems in 2030 will have something very similar.”