Defence against real-world and cyber security threats were the focus on day two of FIA Connect.

The agenda for the day included an update on the Team Tempest next generation fighter project, two years after it was unveiled at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow by BAE Systems. This year brought news of additional partners joining the project team.

BAE Systems manufacturing director Dave Holmes revealed that seven UK companies had signed collaborative agreements. They are: GKN, GE UK; Collins Aerospace; Thales UK; Bombardier Belfast; Martin Baker and Qinetiq.

Collaboration vital to success for Team Tempest

Holmes said the team would be presenting the full business case for the UK to go ahead with its international partners to secure the funding for the assessment stage of this next generation fighter – adding that collaboration was vital to success.

Holmes said: “To achieve this, I think we are all clear that we need a game changer, so we need to generate a game changer in technology, we need to generate game changing intellectual property and of course we need to train the next generation of engineers and technologists to take advantage of this programme for maybe decades to come.”

Defence has demonstrated vital role during COVID-19 pandemic

The FIA Connect community said the defence industry had demonstrated its importance during the COVID-19 pandemic with 66 per cent of respondents saying it had played a vital role assisting with contingency during the crisis.

Both aerospace and defence have been praised for their resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic, turning expertise in advanced engineering capabilities to developing vital medical equipment to fight the virus.

Sir Simon Bollom from the UK’s Defence Equipment & Support explained: “The ventilator challenge was in many ways like an urgent capability requirement that we so often get called to respond to. Some of my specialist teams were able to lean in to engage with potential suppliers, develop new innovative solutions for ventilators and set up supply chains ready for delivery.”

Invisible cyber threats on the rise

But defence against other hidden dangers remain a great concern. Cyber threats are an invisible threat which is coming under greater scrutiny from the defence industry.

The publishing of a UK government report by the Intelligence and Security Committee today found “credible” evidence that Vladimir Putin’s Russian administration had engaged in “hostile foreign interference” in the Scottish Independence Referendum and the EU referendum.

The 47-page report found that the UK’s intelligence had “their eye off the ball” over Russian interference. The FIA Connect community was polled on how this issue of interference in democratic processes could be avoided. The poll found that 41 per cent of respondents thought more emphasis should be placed on using intelligence, 32 per cent thought there should be greater investment in technology, while 29 per cent thought the problem could be addressed through greater industry collaboration.

Speed of digitisation has exposed security weaknesses

Miriam Howe Cyber Security Consultant at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence said the speed of digitisation had been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the rise of home working had exposed security weaknesses such as weak authentication with an increase in data theft and phishing campaigns.

Home security: biggest “single point of failure”

According to Professor Deeph Charna, from Imperial College London’s Institute of Security Science & Technology, the biggest challenge for governments and corporations would be securing in our own homes.

He said: “What’s interesting about this current crisis is that it is making nearly everyone in society focus on cyber security and their digital footprint in a unique way. Particularly seeing as people’s home lives have now become their new workplaces and people’s homes have become, I guess the single point of failure for not only their personal data but also their corporation’s data. I think it poses difficult questions on exactly how the home environment needs to be secured and who is reponsible for that, particularly when you are looking at corporate data or even government data.”
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