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US and Australia sign first-ever cyber agreement to develop virtual training range

LCDR Mike Tomsik, USN, and MGEN Marcus Thompson, Head of Information Warfare for The Australian Army, sign the US-Australia Cyber Training Agreement in Canberra. Photo: Defence

The USA and Australia have launched a first-ever agreement to continuously develop a virtual cyber training range together. The two nations have signed a Cyber Training Capabilities Project Arrangement (CTCPA) worth some $295 million. This bi-lateral, international agreement enables US Cyber Command to incorporate ADF feedback into USCYBERCOM’s simulated training domain, the Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE).

The PCTE is a cyber training platform for real-world defensive missions across boundaries and networks; its shared use and development will constantly evolve it and sharpen readiness in cyber tactics, techniques, and procedures. The CTC PA, valued at US$215.19 million over six years, provides the flexibility to develop cyber training capabilities for the future.

“This project arrangement is a milestone for US-Australian cooperation. It is the first cyber-only arrangement established between the U.S Army and an allied nation, which highlights the value of Australia’s partnership in the simulated training domain,” said Elizabeth Wilson, The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation. “To counter known and potential adversarial threats, the Army has recalibrated our strategic thinking; we’ve made smart decisions to refocus our efforts to invest in the new, emerging and smart technologies that will strengthen our ability to fight and win our nation’s wars.”

Previously, US and allied cyber forces developed cyber training ranges for specific scenarios that would be used once, a process that could take months. Now, PCTE offers a collaborative training environment, enabling cyber forces around the world to develop and re-use already-existing content and train at the individual and group levels anytime.

“This arrangement will be an important part of the ADF’s training program, and we look forward to the mutual benefits it will bring,” said MGEN Marcus Thompson, the Head of Information Warfare for the ADF.

The US Army has the lead in developing PCTE, and worked with the Pentagon’s Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation on this cooperative cyber project with Australia. The PEO STRI is responsible to deliver and improve PCTE on behalf of the Joint Services; currently, PCTE’s primary user is USCYBERCOM and the Service Cyber Components.

PCTE is one component of the US military’s Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, an overarching framework that helps guide capability development across all services for a functional, adaptive system of systems.

The PCTE is designed as a distributed, secure, reconfigurable environment where numerous independent cyber operations training activities may occur simultaneously. These environments include virtual emulations of live networks that allow cyber operators the ability to practice their skills and operations in a closed environment.

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