Air Force’s first cyberspace squadron begins in-flight operations

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Tech. Sgt. Carl Williams, 747th Cyberspace Squadron standards and evaluations craftsman, observes radio frequencies recorded by a stand-alone hub activity reconnaissance kit in a C-17 Globemaster III around the Hawaiian Islands, Nov. 3, 2021. The end goal of the “SHARK” kit is to be able to detect and cancel radio frequency jamming. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alan Ricker)

By Airman 1st Class Makensie Cooper

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (AFNS) —  

The 747th Cyberspace Squadron, the Air Force’s first cyberspace squadron, is now performing operations with the 535th Airlift Squadron with its Mission Defense Team aboard the C-17 Globemaster III.

The MDT is made up of a team of cyber and communication professionals designated to defend a specific aircraft, preventing adversaries from invading the airspace and manipulating aircraft data.

“The MDT actually stood up in 2017, and has been designated as the lead MDT team for the C-17 platform for the entire Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Justin Young, 747th CYS cyber transport technician. “We have a crew of three and we do mission planning and mission briefs, we sit crew for a set number of hours, and then we do a debrief just like the pilots do.”

The MDT is constantly monitoring the airspace to defend critical assets across the Air Force from adversary cyber attacks.

“There is absolutely a growing threat that adversaries can manipulate data across any terrain to include airframes, so our job is to defend cyberspace and prevent that from happening,” Young said.

Cyberspace Airmen monitor cyberspace for abnormalities such as data manipulation and false information readings to prevent interference and jamming.

“Abnormalities are important to monitor because we need to understand everything that happens in the cyber domain if we are going to defend it,” said Senior Airman Allan Larson, 747th CYS mission defense operator. “If we do not understand it, then we don’t know if it is a threat or not.”

The 747th CYS is building up its mission set around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam by partnering with the 19th Fighter Squadron and Navy facilities to protect the industrial control systems, paving a way for the rest of the Air Force to follow suit.

“It is pretty amazing to see the capabilities that we are able to do, and how fast our Airmen have been able to completely change their mindset on how they approach comm and cyber,” Young said. “It is pretty mind blowing that we can do this, and that we did it so quickly.”