- U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sara Stalvey
- A new Pentagon report revealed that the Army’s upgunned Stryker units deployed to Europe to counter Russia have a serious vulnerability: They can be hacked.
- “Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the [Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons] when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the report said.
- Armed with a powerful 30mm cannon, among other upgrades, the improved Strykers were built to bring extra firepower to the battlefield, but a vulnerability to cyberattacks could be a fatal flaw against top adversaries such as Russia.
The US Army’s upgunned Strykers were developed to counter Russian aggression in Europe, but while these upgraded armored vehicles bring greater firepower to the battlefield, they suffer from a critical weakness that could be deadly in a fight.
The improved Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle – Dragoons deployed with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe have the ability to take on a variety of threats, but there’s one in particular that the powerful new 30mm automatic cannons can’t eliminate.
- Photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo
“Adversaries demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber environment,” the Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) said in a report last month, according to The War Zone.
Simply put, the vehicles can be hacked.
It’s unclear who has been doing the hacking because “adversaries” is an ambiguous term. The adversaries could be simulated enemy forces in training exercises or an actual adversarial power such as Russia. The new Stryker units are in service in Germany, where they were deployed in late 2017, according to Army Times.
The military typically uses “opposing force” or “aggressors” to refer to mock opponents in training exercises. The use of the word “adversaries” in the recent report could indicate that the Army’s Strykers were the target of an actual cyberattack.
- U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John Onuoha
It’s also unclear which systems were affected, but The War Zone said that it appears the most appealing targets would be the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital-communications systems because a cyberattack on these systems could hamper and slow US actions on the battlefield, threatening US forces.
These “exploited vulnerabilities,” the recent report said, “pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” such as the replacement of the M2 .50 caliber machine guns with the 30mm cannon, among other upgrades. This means that other Stryker variants may have the same fatal flaw as the upgunned versions, the development of which began in 2015 in direct response to Russian aggression.
US forces have come face to face with Russian electronic-warfare threats before.
“Right now, in Syria, we are operating in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet from our adversaries,” Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations Command, said last April.
- Photo by Sgt. Timothy Hamlin
He said these activities were disabling US aircraft. “They are testing us everyday, knocking our communications down, disabling our EC-130s, etc.”
NATO allies and partner countries have also encountered GPS jamming and other relevant attacks that have been attributed to Russia.
The recent DOT&E report recommended the Army “correct or mitigate cyber vulnerabilities,” as well as “mitigate system design vulnerabilities to threats as identified in the classified report.”