U.S. Space Force needs to ramp up its use of high-fidelity simulators to train personnel how to deter potential adversaries, and, if necessary, defeat them, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, the service’s chief of space operations said on Feb. 22.

“If you think all you have to do is buy the best equipment, to have the most exquisite hardware from a military standpoint, that you’re just gonna roll over an opponent, that’s not the way it works,” he told a Center for Strategic and International Studies’ forum. “It takes operational concepts, joint operations, doctrine, tactics, sustainment capabilities, logistics planning. You have to be able to pull all of that together.”

“For me, that means you’ve got to train like you plan to fight,” Saltzman said. “You’ve got to be able to do range operations. You have to practice tactics. You have to simulate against a thinking adversary to see if your tactics are gonna hold up in a contested domain. All of those things are gonna be critical to having success in modern warfare, and I think those are some of the things we’re seeing play out in Ukraine.”

“We’ve got to train,” he said. “We’ve got to have the ranges. We’ve got to develop our tactics and test them, simulate them, and that means I’ve got to build new infrastructure to provide our Guardians the kinds of simulators they need–the kinds of virtual environments–to test their concepts so that we can see if it’s gonna work in a contested environment like we might see in the western Pacific.”

Saltzman’s first assignment in the Air Force was in an ICBM missile crew at Malmstrom AFB, Mont., from July 1992 to June 1996, according to his Air Force biography page. On Feb. 22, Saltzman said that ICBM simulators could provide lessons learned for space operations simulators.

“I trained in the [ICBM] simulator every month to make sure I was fully ready to do that job, should I be asked to do it,” he said. “What’s amazing is that the simulator was exactly like it was in the field. When you turn a key in the [ICBM] simulator, you get all the same indications you would get out in the field…The idea was that you could completely simulate the environment. I think we need to take advantage of this because space is very similar to that. Our connection to the space environment is virtual. From the operator’s perspective, you’re interacting through keyboards and RF [radio frequency] energy through antennas, and it could be perfectly replicated in a simulator environment. Once you build the high-fidelity simulators, then you can test, practice your tactics, have adversary inputs to see how it would behave and how the system would work. I think that gives us a powerful leg up because so much can be simulated and doesn’t have to be done in a live environment.”

Saltzman has said that DoD use of commercial constellations and two to three year “contract award to orbit” small satellites will help ensure that the U.S. military can continue its operations, if an adversary shuts down some U.S. satellite operations (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).

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 last month.

While SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, has allowed Starlink to provide communications for Ukrainian forces, Space X President Gwynne Shotwell said this month that Starlink was “never meant to be weaponized” and that SpaceX would block any Ukrainian use of Starlink for combat drones (Defense Daily, Oct. 11, 2022). In addition to SpaceX, companies like ICEYEMaxar Technologies [MAXR], Capella Space, and Black Sky [BKSY] have aided allied efforts in Ukraine with imagery, and companies, like Hawkeye 360, have helped in the realm of satellite/signals protection.