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Zero Day Warfare

February 22, 2016 - 06:47 -- Admin

The winner of the next big conflict will be the side with the best understanding of how to use bots in warfare. Bots aren't just an iterative improvement in warfare, like stealth or PGMs, it's a revolution in the making. The US military, to its credit, is working on this. So far, the US military has identified three (out of nearly a dozen) of the foundational ideas needed to successfully employ bots in warfare:

  • Teaming
  • Autonomy
  • Swarming

Learning from Nitro Zeus

However, these early ideas are a long way from the operational thinking required to win wars using bots. That type of thinking requires a synthesis of the foundational ideas into new operational concepts. Here's a good example operational concept I'm calling zero day warfare. It builds off the thinking already demonstrated in recent US cyber operations:

  • The US recently leaked plans for Nitro Zeus, a sweeping cyber attack on Iran to be used only if the nuclear negotiations with the country broke down.
  • Nitro Zeus, building on the earlier success of the Stuxnet/"Olympic Games" (the earlier cyber attack that set back Iranian nuclear activities by destroying 1,000 centrifuges), was designed to seize control or knockout Iran's air defense system, communications grid, transportation system, and energy grid on the first day of the conflict.
  • The rapid onset of chaos caused by Nitro Zeus would have then made it possible for immediate kinetic attacks on the real objective of the operation: the Iranian nuclear facility at Fordo.   

Zero Day Warfare

The goal of zero day warfare is to win the war before it starts (a very zen concept) by deeply penetrating the opponent's territory years before the conflict begins. Like all maneuver warfare, it is focused on shattering the opponent's physical and logical cohesiveness. Here's a quick summary of the highlights:

  • Autonomous robots and software bots (collectively "bots") deeply penetrate the opponent's territory both physically (territory) and logically (their computer systems). Most would be hidden and remain dormant until activation. Some would actively or passively map opponent networks, analyze them for vulnerabilities, and take advantage of opportunities for stealthy exploitation.
  • When activated, these forward bots conduct a coordinated attack from inside the opponent's territory and systems. Damaging, degrading, or taking control of computer systems and physical infrastructure. Advanced robots would emerge from stealth to kinetically engage with opponent forces or physically seize points (airports, ports, etc.) to enable the rapid entry of conventional forces. 
  • External forces, both bots and conventional, would utilize the disruption of the Zero Day attack to rapidly enter the territory and seize control of key facilities and capture remaining leadership.  

Have fun,

John Robb

PS: A zero day warfare that includes deeply deployed autonomous robots will be possible within the next decade. Almost all of the tech needed to pull it off is almost here.

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I spent the last year working on the Chairman's (of the JCS) vision for how advanced robots will change the face of conventional and unconventional warfare. This year I'll share my thinking with you.  Tag along if you are interested.