ORLANDO, Fla. – At an Air Force Association (AFA) symposium last week that was supposed to be devoted to air warfare, U.S. Air Force leaders spent part of their time underscoring space’s increasing importance to the service.

Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Feb. 23 that the Air Force, which has traditionally focused on maintaining air superiority, needs to recognize that air and space are a “continuum” and that war will eventually be fought in space. 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. Photo: Air Force.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. Photo: Air Force.

“It is time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today,”Goldfein told the AFA audience. “I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years, and we’re the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new contested domain.”

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters Feb. 22 that the service is trying to speed up its space acquisition system, which often takes many years to develop and field new satellites. She noted that the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in California is conducting a “complete review” of the acquisition process.

The Air Force is also trying to make its satellites less vulnerable to attack. For example, its recently released FY 2019 budget request would forego buying the seventh and eighth Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites in favor of developing new, more survivable missile-warning spacecraft.

The Air Force has been under pressure from Congress to give space more attention amid growing threats from China and Russia. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters last month that his panel plans to closely monitor the implementation of a space management overhaul recently mandated by Congress (Defense Daily, Jan. 16).

The fiscal year 2018 defense authorization act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December, stopped short of adopting a controversial House proposal to create a space corps in the Air Force Department. But it contains many other provisions, including making Air Force Space Command the sole authority for organizing, training and equipping all Air Force space forces.