The military has long been extremely quiet regarding its offensive cyber capabilities, largely leaving it up to analysts and pundits to describe what offensive operations would look like. Yesterday however, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz dropped one of the bigger hints I've heard a Pentagon official say in a while about offensive cyber ops.
The four-star told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee that it is "conceivable" that the service could have taken out Libya's SA-5 surface-to-air missiles using cyber weapons rather than iron bombs or missiles, adding, "that's what I mean when I say" Air Force offensive cyber operations. Schwartz went on to explain that any offensive Air Force cyber ops are, for now, limited to the same type of mission already sanctioned by the service, such as eliminating an enemy's air defenses.
The service's primary cyber focus remains defending its networks, which have evolved from administrative tools to playing a critical role in command and control, from the thousands of probes and attacks it receives every month; some of which are "benign others are not so benign," said Schwartz.