A government-mandated tracking system poses a threat to the military’s most advanced fighter jets if security flaws are left unaddressed.
According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this month, steps to modernize the global air-traffic-control system could allow anyone to track U.S. stealth jets like the F-22 and F-35, and leaves military aircraft vulnerable to cyberattacks and electronic warfare.
The security risks stem from a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plan to move from ground-based radars to a satellite system that automatically reports an aircraft’s position, heading, and other critical information.
With commercial air traffic projected to double by 2030, air-traffic controllers around the world are adopting this satellite-based system, as it promises to reduce delays, increase safety, lower fuel consumption and allow for increased air traffic, besides being cheaper to operate than radars.
As part of its modernization efforts, the FAA has issued a rule that requires all aircraft—military and civilian—operating within U.S. national airspace to be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out transponders, which broadcast its position via satellite, by January 1, 2020.
Under the previous radar-based system, aircraft were equipped with Mode S transponders, which only shared basic data like the aircraft’s altitude and unique transponder code. But ADS-B Out transponders convey significantly more information—and this is what poses a security threat. (end of excerpt)
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