U.S., Australia Team
for Cyber Training
with Virtual Training Range
December 7, 2020
As part of the Defense Department's
efforts to sharpen lethality, reform business practices and strengthen
partnerships in cyberspace, the U.S. and Australia have launched the first
agreement to continuously develop a virtual cyber training range.
Both nations signed the Cyber
Training Capabilities Project Arrangement on Nov. 3. The bilateral,
international agreement enables U.S. Cyber Command to incorporate Australian
Defense Force feedback into Cybercom's simulated training domain, the Persistent
Cyber Training Environment.
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.
"This project arrangement is a milestone for U.S.-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," Elizabeth Wilson, the U.S. signatory and deputy assistant
secretary of the Army for defense exports and cooperation, said.
"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," she added.
Previously, U.S. and allied cyber forces developed cyber training ranges for
specific scenarios that would be used once, a process that could take months.
The PCTE offers a collaborative training environment, enabling cyber forces
around the world to develop and reuse already existing content to train at
individual and group levels anytime.
"Australia and the U.S. have a strong history of working together to develop our
cyber capabilities and train our people to fight and win in cyberspace,"
Australian Army Maj. Gen. Marcus Thompson, the Australian signatory and head of
information warfare for the ADF, said. "This arrangement will be an important
part of the ADF's training program, and we look forward to the mutual benefits
it will bring."
Partnerships in cyberspace are key to generating and sharing insights of threat
actors, enabling mutual defense against cyberattacks and conducting the
operational training necessary to hold adversaries accountable in cyberspace.
Such training platforms enable lethal cyber mission forces in defense of U.S.
and allied interests.
"Agreements like this one are crucial to the efficiency of our joint
modernization," Wilson said. "They lay the framework for our mutual growth,
allowing us to become stronger and more interoperable as allies."
The Army has the lead in developing PCTE and worked with the 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 Cybercom and
the services' cyber components.
"PCTE continues to showcase training opportunities for our cyber equities, and,
as we evolve this capability, we look forward to the ongoing progression and
engagements with our partners," Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Bartz, director of
exercises and training for Cybercom, said. "Our recent Cyber Flag events in June
and September of 2020 were prime examples of Five Eyes partner training and
PCTE is one component of the U.S. military's Joint Cyber Warfighting
Architecture, an overarching framework that helps guide capability development
across all services for a functional, adaptive system of systems.
PCTE training platform delivered its first production version in February 2020
and is designed as a distributed, secure, reconfigurable environment where
numerous independent cyber operations training activities may occur
These environments include virtual emulations of live networks that allow cyber
operators the ability to practice their skills and operations in a closed
A key aspect of PCTE, which provides the earliest access to capabilities, is the
incorporation of an iterative development process. This process allows for the
continued development and improvement of PCTE while it is in use by cyber
An illustration shows a world map and a variety of cyber logos.
Cyber mission forces first identified the need for a shared, iterative virtual
cyber range during exercise Cyber Flag 2015 and have since galvanized an
expedited effort to define the requirement and find technical solutions.
Leveraging agile acquisition and rapid prototyping, cyber mission operators
actively test and provide feedback during development, enabling PCTE to meet
their operational needs.
The long-term goal for PCTE is to provide the DOD cyberspace workforce the
capability to build and conduct full-spectrum, combined and joint cyberspace
training, exercises, certification and mission rehearsal in a training
environment. The training environment requirements, driven by training
objectives and user-defined specifications, must emulate a realistic operational
environment that provides scope, scalability and fidelity.
The CTC PA is an example of how the cyber mission forces of the U.S. and
Australia work together and showcases success in the Armaments Cooperation. The
project arrangement, valued at $215.19 million over six years, provides the
flexibility to develop cyber training capabilities for the future.