While the U.S. Space Force hopes to get its own service acquisition executive soon, the newest military service submitted its first Program Objective Memorandum (POM) budget proposal to DoD in the last few months, as Space Force looks to build on U.S. space strengths and counter space technological advances made by China and Russia.
“It is clear today that space is a warfighting domain, just like air, land, and sea, and I couldn’t have said that five or six years ago in a public setting,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond told a National Defense University Foundation virtual forum on Oct. 27. “We didn’t want space to become a warfighting domain, and we still frankly don’t, but adversaries have a vote. Russia and China are developing capabilities in two pieces. One is to have space capabilities for their own use so they have the same advantage we have enjoyed over the last decades of integrating space to great effect. And second, they’re developing a pretty significant set of threats that would threaten our ability to access our space capabilities–everything from reversible jamming on one end all the way up to kinetic destruction on the other.”
Air Force Maj. Gen. John Shaw, the commander of U.S. Space Force’s Space Operations Command, has said that a conflict in space could start with electromagnetic interference, jamming satellites or GPS signals, or using lasers to blind space sensors temporarily (Defense Daily, Oct. 20). A conflict could then escalate to kinetic anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) to destroy on-orbit satellites, he said.
The U.S was the first nation to test anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons in 1958 with bomber-launched ASATs, and three other nations have demonstrated the ability to destroy orbiting satellites–Russia, China, and, most recently, India, with a test in March last year.
Officials from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force, established last December as the sixth military service, have largely confined themselves to talking about building the resilience and redundancy of U.S. space assets and protecting them from enemy attacks, such as ASATs.
At last year’s Space Symposium, Air Force leaders discussed space deterrence through a lens of rapid response to adversary actions, and then Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Defense Daily that an ASAT test “absolutely isn’t the way” to demonstrate a space deterrent capability (Defense Daily, Apr. 11, 2019)
That philosophy may be changing. Air Force Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, Space Force’s deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear, said recently that the Chinese ASAT test in 2007 led directly to the creation of the U.S. Space Force (Defense Daily, Oct. 16). Asked whether a U.S. strategic advantage in space would be limited to the resilience of U.S. space assets or whether the U.S. is also exploring its own ASAT capability, Saltzman replied, “I will tell you that I think the best defense sometimes is a good offense.”
While Space Force has not discussed ASAT capabilities, the service has given a glimpse into its offensive, non-kinetic capabilities.
On March 9, the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., declared initial operational capability for the L3Harris [LHX] Counter Communications System (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.
Since that introduction, SMC and L3Harris have undertaken block upgrades for CCS.