Raytheon Pitches New Weapons To Fix 'Star Wars' Military Flaws

This time it's about the movies, not the missile systems

Storm Troopers In The Force Awakens

Storm Troopers In The Force Awakens

Can The First Order avoid the mistakes of the Galactic Empire?Screenshot by author, from YouTube

Raytheon is one of America's defense giants, known for making cruise missiles for ships, putting radar on blimps, and proposing a space-based anti-missile defense system. This week, in anticipation of a little-known art film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Raytheon's researchers looked at the technology of war long ago in a galaxy far, far away, and offered advice on how to beef up both sides' security.

Some of the points are pretty straightforward, like “The Base On Hoth Needed Backup Power.” Others delve into the boring-but-important parts of modern war, like the lack of Imperial cyber security. Raytheon writes:

First, the Empire. Think back to “Episode IV: A New Hope,” where R2-D2 simply plugs in to the Death Star’s network and disables the trash compactor that is about to crush Luke, Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca.

That sort of activity is what IT security professionals call an anomaly – a rare occurrence that warrants further investigation. It’s a good thing the Death Star lacked an insider-threat detection system, which would have helped the Empire corner the rebels right then and there.

The rebels, meanwhile, could have used stronger cyber when they tried to deactivate the tractor beam. R2 saw it on the Death Star network but could not deactivate it. If he had, Gen. Kenobi never would have had to embark on the heroic trek that led to his fatal confrontation with Darth Vader.

Side note: Thank goodness Jabba the Hutt didn’t know about multi-factor authentication. If he did, there’s no way a disguised Leia ever could have operated the carbonite cell and freed Han.

The Star Wars universe is full of cyber security failures. Earlier this year, Grand Blog Tarkin (full disclosure: a site the author of this post founded and runs) pointed out that, while no one in Star Wars is good at cybersecurity defense, both rebels and Imperials are good at cybersecurity attacks. Jon Jeckell writes:

All combatants extensively used electronic warfare and various forms of cyber attacks. The Empire used malicious software to cripple the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back, R2D2 routinely gained unauthorized access to many computer systems throughout his career to obtain valuable information, and gain control of critical systems for the Old Republic and the Rebellion. Unknown agents surreptitiously deleted information from the Jedi Archives about the existence of the location of a secret cloning facility. Both the Rebels and the Empire also extensively used electronic warfare to jam or spoof sensors and communications, most famously during the blockade at Naboo and at the climactic Battle of Endor.

Raytheon, it turns out, has a real-world interest in cybersecurity, with the links to both their Insider Threat Detection System and authentication systems nestled into their exposé of failed fictional technologies.

The company also has electromagnetic spectrum jammers, which in Star Wars could stop tractor beams and in real-life Raytheon block missile sensors and radar. There's also directed energy, found in the lasers of fictional TIE Fighters and X-Wings and the real labs of Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, General Atomics, Boeing, and others.

Raytheon's playful look at Star Wars is more fun than hard sales pitch. Still, it taps into a mythology as old as time: seizing on the failures of mythical figures from the past to prepare the skeptical leaders of the present for the threats of the future.