COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Gen. John Hyten is not a fighter pilot, the traditional realm from which the Air Force draws its top leaders. But the head of Air Force Space Command has his finger on the pulse of in every US military mission, in the sky and on the ground, and is using that advantage to move forward how the service deals with its space assets.
In a speech at the Space Foundation's annual National Space Symposium here Tuesday, Hyten rolled out a new vision to better integrate the ground, air and space components of the Pentagon's warfighting enterprise, dubbed the Space Enterprise Vision.
The Air Force briefed industry in a classified session today at the Space Symposium, but Hyten gave the audience on Tuesday a glimpse into the thinking behind the new strategy.
The SEV draws on several Air Force studies, including a recent effort called Air Superiority 2030 that explored how the service can maintain air dominance in an increasingly contested environment, Hyten said. Notably, the studies show that air superiority is "not all about the airplane," he stressed.
"The first thing you have to do to gain air superiority is make sure you can fly where you need to fly, that means we have to take down an enemy air defense system, and in order to take down an integrated air defense system you have to do a lot more than send an F-22 in," Hyten said. "There's all the domains that have to play at the same time, things have to happen simultaneously, that's multi-domain operations."
But an obstacle to Hyten's vision of an integrated, multi-domain enterprise is that current operations and acquisition processes are stove-piped.
"Now, we have to tear down the stovepipes and figure out how to do business new," Hyten said.
The Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, or JICSpOC, established last year to create unity and facilitate information sharing across the national security space enterprise, is a key piece of this puzzle, Hyten said. The JICSpOC, located at Schriever Air Force Base here in Colorado Springs, has so far completed three experiments, and has learned that the intelligence community is the "key to everything," he said.
"So its all about the threat its all about the enterprise," Hyten said. "We have been given the greatest gift by the American people – their sons and daughters. Our job is to make sure they are never alone on the battlefield."
Hyten kicked off his presentation with a video showing how satellite communications are essential to operators all over the world, from UAV strikes in the Middle East to special operations missions. He stressed that the US must never let these soldiers down.
He posed an ominous question to the audience: "What if we lost space and cyberspace?"
"Those soldiers on the battlefield in the Middle East can never be left alone," he stressed.
Hyten is considered a top option to become the Air Force's next chief of staff after Gen. Mark Welsh retires this summer. If selected, he would be the first non-pilot to hold the position since the Air Force's creation in 1947.
Given the rumors about his next job, it was hard not to notice that he made a strong case for how a non-traditional position in the service gives him a unique understanding of how the Air Force operates, both internally and jointly, in the modern battlespace.
"A lot of people think that I am a warfighter, I am not," Hyten said. "My job is to lead the 36,000 men and women of AFSPC and organize, train and equip forces. We are working to create a resilient enterprise."