Wednesday, May 27, 2020

‘U.S. Space Force’ Preparing for Space Combat

America’s 6th and newest military branch, the US Space Force (USSF), created by President Trump, was established in December 2019 under the civilian Department of the Air Force. It is commanded by a four-star General – Chief of Space Operations (CSO).

In a few short months, the USSF has created a logo and flag, absorbed staff from the Air Force, and other services, created a Headquarters at the Pentagon, and begun its focus on defending the U.S. from space-borne threats.

It also just launched a new mission of the secretive X-37B – ‘Space Plane.’ However, how Space Force intends to accomplish its mission, has remained fuzzy.

Is Space Force actually planning to fight in Space?  The answer is – yes.

As noted by Universe Today, “Until now, the tasks of the USSF have been a bit ambiguous. The term ‘space warfare’ tends to conjure up many images, most of which are fun but not realistic—aerospace fighters dogfighting in orbit, militarized satellites and spaceships firing directed energy weapons and rail guns, and rayguns that go ‘pew, pew, pew!’” But this image may soon be changing.

While much of what the USSF will do – by necessity – will be earth-based, and highly technical, Space Force is preparing for space combat. As reported by Space News, U.S. Space Force intends to “fill its ranks with expert operators who can command and control satellites but also can protect them from anti-satellite weapons and cyber-attacks.”

Space Force leaders will, of course, be preparing to defend against China or Russia targeting U.S. satellites with missiles or electronic weapons but will also be defending against less sophisticated threats. “It’s a lot easier as an enemy to come at us with a Wi-Fi connection and a laptop and try to cyber hack things than it is to go to the harder things like ASATs,” Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, director of Space Force operations and communications told the Space Force Association (SFA).

Space Force capabilities won’t be limited to these missions alone, though, and Space Force leaders call the full gamut of what is needed for space combat – “space warfighting skills.”

To develop those skills, the USSF will soon begin training its personnel in space warfare and operations – Gen. Burt said – including “orbital warfare, electronic warfare, space battle management, access to space, and sustainment.” Just as new Air Force pilots pick flying fighters, bombers or transports, Space Force professionals will have their own space mission career tracks.

Space Force also plans to soon establish an “orbital warfare wing” in Colorado Springs to train its future operators and leaders.

Meanwhile, USSF is training its first generation of officers. As reported by Space News:

“The new undergraduate space training class graduated last month at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. They will head to Colorado Springs this summer for “space warfighter follow-on” training and will bid for one of the new career tracks, Burt said. The specialization will continue beyond that as operators start working on specific weapon systems “so you start building that depth,” she said.

“It’s going to take 10 years before those individuals are squadron commanders and squadron superintendents,” she said. These will be the experts who will shape Space Force doctrine and strategy. “That’s how the culture is going to change as well,” she said. “But it takes time. I wish it would go faster but it just takes time.”

It will take some time to get Space Force operating effectively as its own space combat entity, but clearly the USSF leadership has the vision and plan to take it there. Meanwhile, I’m still hoping for the addition of US Space Marines.

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Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo is a defense and national security expert. He served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. He holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. Paul is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and a Contributor to American Defense News.

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