As the military service responsible for leadership of space, the Air Force is focused intensely on making sure that if and when conflict comes, the United States is prepared to protect our interests and, in a larger sense, our way of life. The extent to which space technologies enable our military to operate around the world, and our economy to run efficiently at home, is not always clearly understood. From buying gasoline at the pump, to driving your car and ordering products online, to efficient delivery of goods and medical services, the global economy relies on satellite technologies first brought online by the military.
For the past 25 years the Air Force has led the integration of real-time, global information from space into the way we conduct military operations. When the US military goes to fight, we do so backed by key space technologies. These include over-the-horizon communications and remote tracking needed to recover troops behind enemy lines to the precision munitions that are key to defeating ISIS.
In the next year, you’ll hear us talking a lot about space and how we work closely with the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. We believe it is imperative that Americans understand the nature of what is at stake as we rapidly prepare to defend our satellites and networks from attack and develop capabilities that will deter future adversaries from trying. The first step is recognizing, in the words of Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, “there is no such thing as a war in space, there is just war, it’s with an adversary and if it extends into space we have to figure out how to fight it.” As an Air Force, we need to treat space just like the land, sea and air warfighting domains.
Just as the Air Force has led the space integration effort, we are now leading the effort to preserve our use of space by preparing for the war that extends into space--which we hope never comes.
* The Air Force developed a warfighting construct to prepare for a conflict that extends to space, enhanced our ability to see threats, and is actively working to hone our ability to command and control space assets in a contested environment.
* We are building a more survivable space infrastructure and strengthening partnerships across the Department of Defense and intelligence community to protect, defend and operate critical national security space systems.
* Last year, we partnered with the intelligence community and U.S. Strategic Command, the headquarters that oversees the nation’s nuclear arsenal, to establish the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center in Colorado. This space defense operations center is designed to teach us what we don’t know and to help us innovate and test new tools in space.
These actions and others are necessary to outpace adversaries’ space capabilities and counter any intent to deny freedom of action in this vital warfighting area. And as we re-engineer satellites and train a force for this new reality, we have made a fundamental shift in thinking. The Air Force, and the other services, must think about conflict in space the same way we would approach a conflict on earth. It is no longer just the stuff of science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. In space, we must be able to detect threats early, if need be maneuver, and respond so decisively that no foe is tempted to raise a weapon in anger.
In the near term, addressing what is at stake in this new realm will require both immediate change and a long-term commitment. To this end, the Air Force welcomes the discussion to realign policy, strategy and resources. By openly embracing our commitment to defend American space assets, we send a strong signal to potential foes that waging such a battle is a losing proposition, period. That is a message that we are ready and willing to deliver.
Gen. Dave Goldfein is the U.S. Air Force chief of staff. Gen. Jay Raymond is the commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command.