The Air Force is putting increased dollars and training hours toward ensuring its space operators are properly equipped for any future conflict in space, a service official said Nov. 2.
Air Force Space Command’s biggest training shortfall is simulators, and especially simulators that can reflect more advanced, warfighting scenarios, Brig. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt, the command’s director of operations and communications, said at a breakfast event Friday on Capitol Hill.
“We are continuing to try to work [on] how do we put a threat-based ability into the simulator,” she said, adding, “Our simulators have not been built that way.”
The fiscal year 2019 defense bill includes $22 million for space trainers and simulators that will develop or upgrade a total of 16 trainers to meet “Space Mission Force” (SMF) requirements, along with over 50 additional training events and exercises that involve distributed mission operations, according to an Air Force spokesperson. About $95 million is budgeted across the service’s five-year Future Years Defense Program, or FYDP, for these purposes.
The bill also includes $17 million for FY ’19 and $79 million across the FYDP for increased used of space tests and training range “in support of counter space testing and training activities,” to include live-virtual-constructive operations training events, said Jennifer Thibault, Air Force Public Affairs, in an emailed response to Defense Daily.
The Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (AFSMC) is looking to partner with video game developers who can build a simulator with capabilities that reflect space as a warfighting domain, Burt said. New virtual trainers would also help operators hone in on features that the Air Force wants to keep under wraps due to operational security, she noted.
“As we move down the road with capabilities, there are going to be things very similar to the F-35” Joint Strike Fighter, she said. “Right now, there are things the F-35 can do that we do not do live … because of the classification of the capability and we don’t want to disclose it.
“There are going to be those same kinds of capabilities in the space arena that we don’t want to show the enemy upfront and we’re going to need a simulator to be able to train and work through those tactics and techniques as we need to,” she added.
Air Force Space Command is also increasing the training hours for future space warriors, Burt said.
The current undergraduate space training course for officers and enlisted airmen currently runs 77 days at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. That will be lengthened to 111 training days, she said, noting “we have realized that [77 days] is not enough depth” for trainees to come out prepared for new near-peer threats in space. The training course will also now include a capstone-like exercise at the end, where candidates will showcase what they have learned in life-like scenarios, she added.
The command is also upping the required clearance level for space warfighters, Burt said. Beginning Oct. 1, 2019, course takers must have a top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI) clearance by the time they have completed their training, rather than the current requirement of secret clearance.
“We have also recognized you can’t talk about warfighting and not talk about the threat,” Burt said. Recognizing that it often takes time for candidates to move through the clearance process, the command plans to have trainees begin the clearance paperwork at the start of the course, and keep TS/SCI-related material to the end, by which time they will hopefully have their clearance secured, she said.