The computerization of weapon systems in the Air Force brings many advantages — but it also means they’re increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

To help safeguard the security of these aircraft and other systems, the Air Force is working on a new cyber career field, dubbed 1D7, for airmen in cyber jobs such as mission defense teams.

Mission defense teams are charged with identifying where the cyber vulnerabilities are for each weapon system, and developing and putting into place the safeguards those systems need, the Air Force said in a Tuesday release. They also must establish alert systems to catch when a cyber attack on a weapon system is happening, and then respond and recover from the attack.

Managers from the cyber community met last week at Little Rock Air Force Base in Arkansas to decide how such a career field might work. During the Nov. 19-20 meetings at the 189th Airlift Wing there, career field and functional area managers hashed out a training plan and expectations of students and instructors. They also improved the mission defense team training plan, and incorporated those developments into the new career field.

In the release, the Air Force said the new training outline they set will have a more relevant curriculum for cyber airmen, particularly those in mission defense teams. The planning committee also talked about how pipeline training will be conducted, and how follow-on training will fit into airmen’s schedules.

It’s crucial for the Air Force to know what mission defense team students will learn in their pipeline training, so follow-on training can be set up properly and succeed.

“We need to know where [students in the mission defense team pipeline] end so we know where to start” with follow-on training, Lt. Col. Eroica Waggoner, commander of the 223rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron, said in the release. “They have the first part of training, so we need to know what they’re teaching them before they show up here. We need to make sure that all the people coming through here have the required fundamental training so we can effectively train them further.”

Waggoner said her squadron is preparing to train about 560 students in fiscal 2020, and train 84 mission defense teams across the Air Force.

“The proposed 1D7 AFSC will drive a more relevant curriculum,” Waggoner said. “This will make it a more streamlined effort.”

Aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor and E-3 Sentry, also known as the AWACS, or airborne warning and control system, are among those weapon systems safeguarded by mission defense teams.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Defense News. He previously reported for, covering the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare. Before that, he covered U.S. Air Force leadership, personnel and operations for Air Force Times.

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