Air Force launches new space war effort

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has established a new deputy chief of staff for space operations to sharpen the focus on being prepared for enemy attacks in space.

The Air Force is intensifying preparations and strategies to be ready for the prospect of war in space.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced the formation of a new deputy chief of staff for space operations, a three-star general officer tasked with sharpening the focus on preparing the U.S. for space attacks.

“This is the next step in our effort to integrate, normalize and elevate space operations in the Air Force,” Wilson said. “The United States is dependent upon space and our adversaries know it. We must organize and train forces to prevail in any future conflict which could extend into space.”

GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, rely upon satellite technology to hit targets, as do small, hand-held navigational force tracking systems for dismounted soldiers on the move in combat.

The Air Force Secretary has also said the service needs to acquire new space technologies more quickly to ensure U.S. dominance in space as the domain rapidly becomes more contested.

The idea, naturally, is to prepare the U.S. Space enterprise for a threatening, high-risk contested environment wherein anti-satellite (ASA) weapons proliferate around the globe.

The Air Force is investing $5.5 billion over the next five years as part of this effort.

While several countries are known to be making investments in the development of space weaponry, Chinese activities have engendered particular concern among Pentagon leaders, analysts and threat assessment professionals.

The Chinese fired a land-based kinetic energy SC-19 missile at a satellite several years ago, an action that inspired worldwide attention and condemnation. Pentagon officials say the Chinese program is very advanced.

As long ago as 2007, they launched an ASAT test of a low-altitude interceptor. They struck and destroyed a defunct Chinese weather satellite and created tens of thousands of pieces of debris, Air Force senior leaders have explained.

In response, the U.S. Joint Space Operations center issued a warning to other countries that operate satellites to stay clear of potentially damaging space debris. Since this time, the Chinese have continued to conduct live-fire tests of ASAT weapons while avoiding repeated attacks on actual satellites.

The U.S. operates Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, communication satellites, which have replaced the older Milstar systems; they operate at 44 GHz uplink and 20 GHz downlink.

Although many of the details pertaining to U.S. space defenses and countermeasures are secret, there are some discussable elements of the Air Force effort to foster more resilient space assets. These include additional investments in remote sensing technologies and maneuverability tactics.

Disaggregation and diversity are among the most heavily emphasized countermeasure techniques, which seek to deploy multiple satellites carrying both conventional and nuclear systems; diversity tactics are aimed at using multiple satellites to achieve the same goal.

“The satellite architecture is not as vulnerable as many have maintained,” an Air Force official familiar with the plan explained.

For instance, U.S. equipment can use both GPS and Europe’s Galileo navigation system, Air Force officials said.  Naturally, this method would allow U.S. forces to use allied assets if U.S. satellites were disrupted or destroyed by enemy attack.

The distribution strategy is designed to spread satellites apart, should some assets be destroyed. Deception tactics are used so that potential adversaries are not aware of which satellites perform certain functions. “There is no one node that is invulnerable to attack,” a senior Air Force official said.

Some satellites are purely used for communications, whereas others are GPS-oriented or geared toward what Air Force professionals describe as Space-Based Infrared Systems, or SBIRS, assets. SBIRS are engineered to detect the large thermal signal from an enemy intercontinental ballistic missile launch to better enable missile defense technology to intercept an approaching attack.

Proliferation and protection are also part of the strategic initiative; this involves deploying multiple satellites to perform the same mission and taking specific technical steps to harden satellites against attacks. Hardening satellites will involve developing methods of allowing them to operate in an environment where there might be electronic warfare attacks.

The service mapped out a multi-dimensional space weapons defense plan, resulting from several years of space-focused analysis and research. In 2014, the service conducted a Space Strategic Portfolio Review in which the entire space architecture was assessed.

By 2015, the Air Force had completed a “space situational awareness” review highlighting the range of key space security issues as a foundation for the changing strategy.  

Overall, the Air Force and Defense Department have stepped up space development and collaboration, designed to properly respond to what experts cite as a commercial renaissance in space research, development and technological advances.

For instance, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has formally handed over its high-tech, wide-angle view Space Surveillance Telescope, which, among other things, can detect potentially dangerous asteroids or attacks at farther distances than previous systems could, a Pentagon statement said.

 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.