The head of U.S. Space Force said this week that the war in Ukraine has emphasized the “criticality of space in modern warfare” and said that commercial systems will continue to play a significant role in conflicts as U.S. forces seek speed of information and rapid targeting advantage by implementing the Pentagon’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) construct.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance “Salty” Saltman told the U.S. Space Force Association in a Jan. 12 virtual forum that he was averse to “drawing too many lessons learned while an event like this [Ukraine conflict] is unfolding” but that several areas stand out so far.
“The ability to deny a single satellite’s capabilities became very obvious very early in this conflict,” he said. “The ability to cyber attack ground networks that facilitate space vehicles, those vulnerabilities became obvious early in the conflict. The commercial augmentation of space capabilites showed its merits.”
A disaggregated communications architecture, based on hundreds of satellites, such as SpaceX‘s Starlink, is “much tougher to target” and has “proven out to be a more resilient architecture,” Saltzman said.
Starlink has helped provide communications for Ukrainian forces (Defense Daily, Oct. 11, 2022). In addition, companies like ICEYE, Maxar Technologies [MAXR], Capella Space, and Black Sky [BKSY] have aided allied efforts with imagery, and companies, like Hawkeye 360, have helped in the realm of satellite/signals protection.
Such disaggregation is also to be present in the command structure. Combatant commands are to have space components and, thus far, U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Forces Korea, and Central Command have such components. Saltzman said that it will be important to delegate combat decisions to such regional authorities.
“We’re gonna face adversaries in the future where we’re gonna have to win the decision cycle so we’re gonna have to push those decisions out in the regions, and I wanna make sure that we have space capability that can take on those responsibilities, if called on,” he said.
To aid the disaggregated JADC2, the Department of the Air Force is looking for commercial companies that are able to provide a software defined-wide area network (SD-WAN) that will be a key part of the space transport layer to reduce information and targeting lag times. The department may test out such SD-WAN features later this year at MITRE in Bedford, Mass.