What Does the US Military Need for a War in Space? It’s Hard to Say

 In China, GDI, Russia, Land, Defense, Air, Space

The plans for war above the atmos­phere remain so tight­ly clas­si­fied that indus­try can’t start build­ing the things that will be need­ed.

It’s no secret that Pentagon lead­ers believe that future wars will be fought in space. But oper­at­ing con­cepts and bat­tle plans remain under such tight wraps that it’s hard for the defense indus­try to start mak­ing the satel­lites, space­craft, and materiel that will be need­ed for the fight.

That’s a prob­lem, acknowl­edged U.S. Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, who leads the 3‑month-old U.S. Space Command.

“We have a con­cept of oper­a­tions on how we’re going to oper­ate [in space]. I invit­ed indus­try to come in and say: ‘OK, we’re going to give it to you,’” Raymond said Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The prob­lem was, it was so clas­si­fied that very few could come in. We’re work­ing very hard to reduce the clas­si­fi­ca­tion on issues that allow more con­ver­sa­tion back and forth.”

In recent years, Pentagon offi­cials have said future satel­lites need to be able to defend them­selves and be more maneu­ver­able. Most mil­i­tary satel­lites orbit­ing the Earth — col­lec­tive­ly worth many bil­lions of dol­lars — are unable to do that, which has prompt­ed mil­i­tary offi­cials to warn that China and Russia could eas­i­ly shoot them down, jam their sig­nals, or blind their cam­eras.

“From my per­spec­tive, the scope, scale and com­plex­i­ty of that threat is alive and well and very con­cern­ing,” Raymond said. 

“If you look at the require­ments going for­ward, it’s not good enough just to be able to get a satel­lite up in orbit and have an exquis­ite satel­lite that pro­vides exquis­ite capa­bil­i­ty,” he said.  “You have to also be able to pro­tect and defend it. Balancing that, the mis­sion, cost and being able to defend it are all things that we’re look­ing at in our require­ments.”

The cre­ation of U.S. Space Command to over­see mil­i­tary oper­a­tions is space, is one in a series of steps that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has pro­posed to stream­line many frag­ment­ed activ­i­ties in space. 

There are sev­er­al Pentagon orga­ni­za­tions that over­see the buy­ing of satel­lites, the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Rapid Capabilities Office, the new Space Development Agency, DARPA, Army Space and Missile Defense Command and oth­ers. Raymond said the cre­ation of Space Command is a step toward stream­lin­ing buy­ing pri­or­i­ties.

“As a com­bat­ant com­mand, you have a stronger voice in joint require­ments,” he said. “I think that’s going to be very help­ful for the space com­mu­ni­ty.”

But not all see it that way, at least right now.

“When the require­ments come out of the com­bat­ant com­mands and they go to the acqui­si­tion agency, they then come out as require­ments that we in indus­try respond to,” said one attendee who iden­ti­fied him­self as a Northrop Grumman employ­ee. “Those two don’t align. The require­ments that we’re respond­ing to as indus­try and the expec­ta­tion that you have as a com­bat­ant com­man­der, they don’t align. That’s a chal­lenge.”

Oftentimes, com­pa­nies make their own invest­ments to devel­op tech­nolo­gies that the mil­i­tary wants. These research-and-devel­op­ment invest­ments could bet­ter posi­tion a com­pa­ny to win Pentagon busi­ness. It also could lead to the Pentagon get­ting a tech­nol­o­gy or a new weapon faster.

Raymond, who also heads Air Force Space Command, said the cre­ation of U.S. Space Command should help bet­ter align require­ments.

“We think it’s extreme­ly pos­i­tive because it is cre­at­ing a voice around require­ments,” Tony Frazier, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of glob­al field oper­a­tions at Maxar Technologies, said of the stand up of Space Command in an inter­view ear­li­er this year.

The House and Senate have each includ­ed lan­guage in the fis­cal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that would cre­ate a Space Force, a new branch of the mil­i­tary, with­in the Air Force. That leg­is­la­tion is stalled on Capitol Hill because law­mak­ers are at odds over fund­ing Trump’s south­ern bor­der wall. Still Raymond, threw his sup­port behind the Space Force.

“I’m real­ly eager for Congress to pass this NDAA so we can have a Space Force,” Raymond said.

Source: Defense One

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