The space domain — which some in the space profession exclaim is the domain that underpins most if not all critical terrestrial capabilities to include GPS and cyber — is becoming hotly contested. Nations such as Russia and China are rapidly developing anti-satellite weapons that have concerned top U.S. military leaders.
The space forces within the U.S. Air Force are trying to leverage intelligence professionals to counter these threats and enable forces in future congested and contested operating environments.
Part of this involves a change in thinking by intelligence professionals, according to Col. Todd Moore, commander of the 21st Space Wing, who spoke Sept. 19 on a panel at the Air Force Association’s annual conference. It will be important to develop a force that can not only identify the right questions to ask, but also answer those questions, he said.
Col. Jennifer Grant, commander of 50th Space Wing, said during the same panel that embedding at her wing intelligence professionals with space squadrons involved in different missions that can ask the right questions and possess advanced thinking has become part of the fabric of operating the space mission force during advanced training and dwell time.
Moore said he’s hopeful that as the National Space Defense Center — which is a partnership between the Defense Department and the intelligence community to create unity of effort across the space enterprise — matures, it will play a relatively large role as the service tries to bring together different elements of the space enterprise to gain access to special data previously unavailable.
The head of 460th Space Wing, Col. David Miller, said during the panel that the space force, through partnerships with other elements of the Air Force such as Air Combat Command, is exploiting a capability called infrared surveillance. This has allowed for a “quantum leap” in capability.
Adversaries of the United States have recognized how important space is to the U.S. military and have thus invested heavily to contest and deny it. This has changed the writ of intelligence analysts who now have to reconcile the counter-space challenge, Miller said.
Both Miller and Grant briefly noted the importance of integrating and exploiting cyber intelligence.
“We’re also looking at the cyberthreats in addition to that as well,” Grant said. “It’s really at the tip of the spear and the beginning of what we’ll soon see as a development for our intelligence personnel and the questions that we’re asking in setting some of those requirements so we’re better equipped for what we need to do.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.