WASHINGTON — The newly installed head of the reborn U.S. Space Command, doesn’t want to go it alone anymore.
“Historically, we haven’t needed to have allies in space,” Gen. Jay Raymond said Aug. 29 at the Pentagon. But now, as space becomes a full-on war-fighting domain, working with allies is “a big growth area for us. And I think it’s going to provide our country a big advantage. We’re stronger together.”
Raymond acknowledged that working with allies isn’t always easy, given the nature of intelligence sharing restrictions and concerns about letting foreign nationals — even those from countries closest to the U.S. — into operation centers.
That has improved in recent years, partly due to the creation of the Combined Space Operations Center, which includes personnel from the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
“We are working very closely with our partners, specifically our Five Eyes partners, France, Germany and Japan. We exercise together, we train together, we conduct war games together,” Raymond said, referring to a five-strong partnership of the U.S., the U.K, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The other reason the U.S. largely operated alone in space? The reality that few countries around the world had space-launch capabilities. That also has changed over the last 15 years, with a number of military partners and allies around the globe, including Israel, Poland, Turkey, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates having stood up new space agencies to cash in on the growing commercial space boom.
In the lead up to Space Command’s launch, the U.S. and the U.K. strengthened space partnerships. Britain is the first international partner to formally sign up for an American-led coalition called Operation Olympic Defender aimed at strengthening allies’ abilities to deter hostile actions by rivals in orbit. Britain also last year awarded a contract for its first-ever domestic space launch facility.
The growth of commercial space has opened up opportunities for the Pentagon to host military payloads on satellites put into orbit by other nations. That process began with Norway and Japan, and Raymond indicated a desire to see more hosted-payload programs.
“We absolutely are open for new partnerships; we’re eagerly working those partnerships,” Raymond said. “I mentioned the countries that we’re working very closely with today, but we are looking forward to continuing to expand that. That’s one of the priorities of the command.”
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.