Securing the Information Environment: 16th Air Force joins forces with Poland Cyber Command

  • Published
  • By Capt. Dorothy Sherwood
  • 16th Air Force Public Affairs
Interoperability is the ability of organizations and systems to work together effectively and efficiently to reach a common objective.

For 16th Air Force and the Poland Cyber Command, the common objective is to hunt, expose, disrupt and defeat malicious cyber actors and other malign threats in the Information Environment.

“The key to compete and win in the 21st century is to develop critical relationships with our partners and Allies,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) commander.  “Those relationships are built upon information sharing at all levels. A secured digital environment with our ally Poland creates a wider security cooperation enterprise at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.”

To support transatlantic security, this pivotal partnership converges both commands’ capabilities generating Information Warfare outcomes.

The Poland Cyber Command is a new specialized component of the Polish Armed Forces with over 6,500 skilled personnel responsible for uniting capabilities in advanced information and cryptographic technologies.

Aligning talent with 16th Air Force, the Information Warfare Numbered Air Force and the lead for cryptologic activities, they are a perfect match for exchanging knowledge and expertise in the face of shared challenges and threats.

"Cooperation between Poland Cyber Command and 16th Air Force is crucial in combating continuously increasing sophisticated cyberattacks,” said Polish Maj. Gen. Karol Molenda, Poland Cyber Command commander. “We have joined our capabilities in the daily battle for security.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Poland Cyber Command’s number of cyberattacks in their systems has increased more than fivefold. During this time, the Polish Cyber Command’s teams have effectively countered their operations by identifying these advanced persistent threat groups, allowing their organization to gain insights into these APT groups’ tactics, techniques and procedures.

Sharing this information enhances IW resources, which has been a continual discussion between the Poland Cyber Command and 16th Air Force.

One program in particular, Iron Cactus is used to map and visualize defensive recommendations and insights to adversary TTPs. It was discussed with the Poland Cyber Command at their visit to the 90th Cyberspace Operations Squadron in June 2023.

The 90th COS, assigned to 16th Air Force, is the U.S. Air Force’s premier cyberspace capabilities development organization. The visit focused on both hardware and software solutions.

In the era of Great Power Competition, collaborations on information domain capabilities with our ally Poland ensures a long-term competitiveness in IW — an imperative reason Kennedy and Molenda have hosted each other and met with subject matter experts at their respective commands.  

Another advantage is expertise exchange, which has been ongoing throughout the past year between the two organizations.

During Cyber Coalition 2023, NATO's largest cyber defensive exercise, 35 countries including the Poland Cyber Command and 16th Air Force trained and tested more than 1,300 cyber operators.

The Poland Cyber Command led the planning and execution of cyber operators from Central and Eastern European countries, while16th Air Force led the U.S. Cyber Coalition. Their teams operated in four time zones preparing themselves for real-life challenges.

The Information Environment presents real-life challenges daily, in which misinformation, disinformation and influential operations from threat actors seek to destabilize our societies and sow discord.

Combining 16th Air Force and Poland Cyber Command’s capabilities and expertise represents a foundational advantage over these threat actors that must be protected and reinforced.

“The cooperation serves as a model partnership and invaluable experience that brings mutual benefits and is fundamental in ensuring cybersecurity of our nations," said Molenda.