The service is hoping to at least start to change that paradigm with the introduction of two new space-related classes, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in speech Tuesday evening at the Space Symposium. The classes will be available starting in 2019 to foreign nationals at the National Security Space Institute at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.
The Air Force will also expand two existing classes on national security space to a number of partner nations.
“Why now? Because we face a more competitive and dangerous international security environment than we have seen in decades,” she said, according to prepared remarks.
“Russia and China are developing capabilities to disable our satellites. We will work with like-minded nations to preserve the ability to freely and safely operate in space. We will work with our allies to improve operations, enhance deterrence, defend our vital national interests and prevail when called upon.”
In 2019, the Air Force will establish two new courses: a three-week unclassified course on space situational awareness and an unclassified “Space 100” course, which will provide an overview of space operations, orbital mechanics, the launch process, satellite operations and space weather.
The service will also open up two existing classes to selected countries, including a midlevel “Space 200” course that focuses on space systems development and space power
“Australia, Canada and the U.K. currently attend. We will invite New Zealand, France, Germany, Japan and possibly others to come train with us,” Wilson said.
Additionally, the advanced “Space 300” capstone class will be opened to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K. for the first time.
In a panel earlier on Tuesday, U.S. and U.K. military officials discussed some of the challenges to working cooperatively in space with international partners.
U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. John Hyten said that while classification makes it easier to acquire space technology — and to do it more quickly — it leads to problems when it comes to information sharing with allies.
“Everything we do in space is ‘secret, NOFORN,’ ” he said, using the military abbreviation for “no foreign nationals.”
One of the other panelists, Air Vice Marshall Simon Rochelle, the Royal Air Force’s chief of staff for capability and force development, “has been a friend of mine for many years now,” Hyten continued, “and I can share some very, very sensitive issues with him, but not ‘secret, NOFORN.’ So I can’t let him get on SIPR [Secret Internet Protocol Router Network,] I can’t let him do all of those kinds of things. We just can’t do that.”
Rochelle agreed with Hyten, calling the classification of many space technologies “a hindrance to international response in space.”
Part of the problem is that the Air Force designs platforms for its own specifications, and not for information sharing with partner nations, said Will Roper, the service’s top acquisition executive.
“Every country is going to have their national secrets, some of which will be able to be shared, some of which won’t,” he said. “There’s a lot we can do in simply designing things so that there are multiple levels of data that can be shared from across a wide variety of partners, and flipping the imperative — that you have an imperative to think about sharing.
“It’s not just a good to have. It’s a must-do. Right now, it’s not being done anyway, and we’re paying the price for it.”
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.