UK armed forces confirms cyber as fifth dimension of warfare

Armed forces needs to adapt to recruit more digital quartermasters rather than conventional soldiers, conference attendees told

The UK armed forces have said that cyber is the fifth dimension of warfare

The UK’s armed forces are planning to make significant investments in cybersecurity capabilities and skills over the next few years, according to the country’s military leaders.

Cyber’s status as the “fifth domain” of warfare – alongside sea, land, air, and more recently, space – is forcing defense forces across the West to change how they operate.

This re-evaluation ranges from prioritizing the protection of digital communications, through bolstering defensive and offensive cybersecurity capabilities to building skills.

Building a military Internet of Things

The UK military – along with other NATO nations – is investing in robotics and autonomous systems, artificial intelligence, computer-based or synthetic training, and what is being termed a “military Internet of Things”.

At this week’s DSEI conference in London, the roll-call of sci-fi technologies on show even included a commitment to develop directed energy ‘laser’ weapons.

All these changes in operational priorities poses challenges for both the UK Ministry of Defence and the armed forces themselves.

Although senior officers complain – at least in private – about the ‘Xbox generation’, the needs of today’s armed forces, and requirements for the next generation of recruits, lean more heavily on technology skills than ever. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the cyber space.

Adapt or die

General Sir Patrick Sanders heads the UK’s Strategic Command, the military organization responsible for multi-domain operations, including space and cyber.

Gen Sanders told delegates at DSEI that he needs personnel who can operate across all the dimensions of warfare, or “penta-phibians”.

These future military personnel will have “the ability to operate seamlessly across all five domains [of warfare],” he said.

“We’re going to need to think radically about the career model, training, and education that accelerates the pace of this evolution because if we don’t adapt, we will at best become exquisite but irrelevant – and at…