On the second day of FIA Connect, FINN explored the topic of defence against real-world and cyber security threats.

We took a look at how the Team Tempest next generation fighter project had progressed two years after it was unveiled at the 2018 Farnborough Airshow by BAE Systems. Seven UK companies – GKN, GE UK, Collins Aerospace, Thales UK, Bombardier Belfast, Martin Baker and Qinetiq – signed collaborative agreements in 2020 to join the project team.

Team Tempest: collaboration vital to success

BAE Systems manufacturing director Dave Holmes said the team would be presenting the full business case for the UK to secure the funding for the assessment stage of the next generation fighter, along with its international partners. Collaboration, he said, was vital to success: “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 demonstrated vital role during COVID-19 pandemic

The defence industry demonstrated its importance during the COVID-19 pandemic – 66 per cent of respondents surveyed said it had played a vital role assisting with contingency during the crisis. Both aerospace and defence used expertise in advanced engineering to develop 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.”

Cyber threats: hidden danger on the rise

But defence against invisible threats remained another concern at FIA Connect. Cyber threats were a hidden dangers which were coming under greater scrutiny as a result of the pandemic.

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 – the biggest “single point of failure”

According to Professor Deeph Charna, from Imperial College London’s Institute of Security Science & Technology, the biggest challenge for both governments and corporations which had been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, would be securing information within 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.”

See more of the discussions from FIA Connect on Future Combat Air Systems during our February Focus on defence