The Pentagon are looking to develop cyber weapons which would be capable of harming humans in the real world, and are looking at bids by defence contractors to take up the contract.
Once the half-billion-dollar computer code has been developed, US troops will be able to launch ‘logic bombs’ online, which have the power to destroy an enemy’s critical infrastructure, with likely loss of human life.
This new type of digital weapon was sanctioned under the Pentagon’s Law of War manual, under the section named ‘Cyber Operations’.
That means that, just as with traditional bombs and weaponry, cyber-strikes will be allowed if they have a proper legal basis, in order not to violate jus ad bellum (Latin for “right to war”) prohibitions on the resort to force.
These are essentially the same rules as for attacks employing traditional bombs or bullets.
“Cyber operations may in certain circumstances constitute uses of force within the meaning of Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations and customary international law,” reads the Law of War Manual. “For example, if cyber operations cause effects that, if caused by traditional physical means, would be regarded as a use of force under jus ad bellum (Latin for ‘right to war” criteria), then such cyber operations would likely also be regarded as a use of force.”
The manual goes on to give grim examples of what might constitute acceptable uses for cyber-weapons: trigger a nuclear plant meltdown; open a dam above a populated area, causing destruction; or disable air traffic control services, resulting in airplane crashes.
Similarly, cyber operations that cripple a military’s logistics systems, and thus its ability to conduct and sustain military operations, might also be considered a use of force under jus ad bellum.
US Cyber Command (US CYBERCOM), responsible for the development of the deadly cyber weapons, is set to outsource to industry all command mission support activities, including “cyber fires” planning, as well as “cyberspace joint munitions” assessments.
Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin – major US defense contractors — are among the companies set to compete for a $460 million contract.