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First USSF Cyber Defense Team emerges at Buckley



On April 14, 2020, the 460th Cyberspace Squadron, here, became the first CS to become a Mission Defense Team (MDT) in the United States Air Force and the United States Space Force.

In October 2018, the 460th Communication Squadron transitioned into the 460th Cyberspace Squadron, where two-thirds of its personnel left their primary duty of maintaining Information Technology, to help create the MDT. For the last year and a half, the 460th CS has worked on outlining requirements for declaring an MDT. The 460th CS has benchmarked the process and has helped pave the way for how an MDT should operate.

“Today marks a historic day for the 460th Space Wing and the US Space Force,” said Col. Devin Pepper, 460th Space Wing commander. “… I am proud to declare our Cyber Squadron’s Mission Defense Team!”

An MDT serves as a capability of the Cyberspace Squadrons to provide tailored point-defense for each weapon system that a squadron obtains. Buckley has two cyber weapon systems that the MDT operators use, located in strategic locations across the Space-Based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) enterprise. This allows them to see all network traffic and spectrum activity that the SBIRS contains. The operators then assess the data for abnormalities and quickly identify and terminate such activities.

The 460th CS officially met all Initial Operating Capabilities (IOCs) April 6, 2020, the same day the Air Force signed the guidance specifying what is required to be an approved MDT.

To become a Mission Defense Team, a CS must first complete eight different Initial Operating Capabilities. The first IOC requires total manpower assigned meets a 60% or greater. The next IOC ensures that the weapon systems are fully installed, configured, and employed. It also includes that manpower proved has completed multiple specific trainings, and that mission essential tasking has been completed in four different areas.

“This is huge as you’ve led the way for all others in the Air Force and United States Space Force,” stated Lt. Col. Travis Prater, former 460th Cyberspace Squadron commander, “This is a remarkable and an awesome testament to your skill, professionalism and bold risk taking!”

Cyber defense operations are the focal component of the 460th CS mission and the reason the USAF and USSF directed the 460th CS to become a major component of the SBIRS weapons systems. With this mission focus, the 460th CS is helping to protect our way of life, by keeping critical space missions safe, and defending against peer or near-peer adversarial cyber-attacks to our critical mission systems.

“The Cyber warriors at Buckley have been leading the charge in defining USAF and USSF Cyber Operations for over 18 months,” said Pepper. “Their efforts have been groundbreaking, and they’ve forged an excellent path for other USSF mission areas.”

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