U.S. Space Force Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson told an Association of Old Crows virtual event on Jan. 13 that the Space Force is looking for personnel skilled in several areas, including satellite command and control, launch, and “orbital warfare.”
“We have further refined the operational specialties inside of the space operations career field that we use,” he said. “We have a specialty now focused specifically on orbital warfare. Space is now a warfighting domain. Therefore, we need experts who know how to fight and win in the domain, and we are developing those warfighters and those capabilities. We now have a specific specialty–space electronic warfare. It has been known by various terms in the Air Force and Space Force over the years. But that is truly an electronic warfare capability.”
During his remarks, Thompson did not mention whether he has spoken with the national security transition team of President-elect Joe Biden on whether the incoming administration favors pursuing “orbital warfare” capabilities.
The Space Force–the sixth and newest military service–looks to survive in the incoming Biden administration, even as some defense analysts have said that it will lead to costly new programs and a new bureaucracy and have suggested that space programs should revert to Air Force control (Defense Daily, Nov. 25, 2020).
Thompson said on Jan. 13 that he favors the approach of Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper in buying a minimally acceptable capability initially and using spiral development to improve systems, rather than waiting to lock down requirements before starting the procurement of systems.
Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond “is going to demand of us, especially in the next year, that we focus hard on integrating the service effectively with the other services and the combatant commands,” Thompson said.
“Frankly, our space electronic warfare capability has been our lead for combat capability and integration with the joint force for years through a couple of systems, primarily our Counter Communications System, which has been in place to deny SATCOM [satellite communications], and we’ve used it in that role for years,” he said. “Many of our capabilities have been forward deployed in the Middle East in support of CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] operations for well over a decade, approaching two decades.”
While Space Force has not disclosed the development of any kinetic programs, the service has revealed several non-kinetic counterspace efforts, including COLSA Corp.’s Bounty Hunter system, a ground-based system providing satellite communications interference detection, which achieved initial operational capability on Aug. 7 last year, and a new $247.5 million Counter Communications System (CCS) Block 10.3 Meadowlands system by L3Harris [LHX].
Last March, the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., declared initial operational capability for the L3Harris CCS Block 10.2, what SMC termed “the first offensive weapon system in the United States Space Force.”
The system is now in operation with the 4th Space Control Squadron at Peterson AFB, Colo., and provides “quick reaction capability with direct operational support to the warfighter,” per SMC.
First introduced in 2004, CCS is a transportable space electronic warfare system that reversibly denies adversary satellite communications, SMC said.
“We have a relatively small force structure [for CCS],” Thompson said. “We’re in the process of growing that force structure. Obviously, that’s electronic warfare in the ground to space sense. We need to evolve the capabilities of that system, but we also need to evolve our space warfare capabilities into other areas. Ground to space is one of them, but there are other ways and techniques and opportunities to employ electronic warfare and conduct electromagnetic space operations in other ways, not just ground to space, but from space, [and] in space. That’s absolutely the direction we need to go, as we seek to provide combat capability to the joint force to protect and defend and ensure that the data and information we provide to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are available regardless of kinetic attack or cyber attack or electronic attack or any means of attack.”
In order to deny adversaries’ capabilities, Thompson said that “we really do need to explore, consider, and ultimately pursue a fuller and broader scope of electronic warfare in a space sense.”