14 May 2013
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., – Recognizing the value of multinational coalitions for operations in the land, maritime and air domains, officials at U.S. Strategic Command here hope to forge a coalition that shares assets and capabilities in space.
The United States and its [NATO] allies are discussing details for the first agreement of its kind promoting combined space operations, Air Force Brig. Gen. David D. Thompson, Stratcom’s deputy director of global operations, told American Forces Press Service.
The agreement could spell out specific areas in which the participating nations will work together, and what each will contribute to those efforts, Thompson said.
The agreement will formalize an arrangement tested last year during a period discovery. Based on the findings, the U.S. and its allies agreed in September to continue working toward closer combined space operations.
Thompson said he hopes the agreement will be the first step in forging international military-to-military cooperation in space that is essential to all. The Stratcom staff already is promoting the concept with what is hoped to be the next wave of nations to join the coalition.
“Our intent with combined space operations is to mirror some of the partnerships we have in other mission areas that are long-term and enduring,” Thompson said.
Space is vital to military operations, providing an array of capabilities that give space-faring nations’ forces a military advantage, he said. These include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that enhance warfighters’ situational awareness, space-based communications that provide them instant, global communications, and global positioning systems that deliver highly accurate navigation and targeting positions.
“This gives them an awareness and understanding that enhances their capabilities to conduct operations the way no other armed forces can today,” Thompson said. “That’s why it’s vitally important to our military forces.”
However, as more nations, organizations and commercial companies vie to take advantage of space-based capabilities, the once-pristine space domain is becoming increasingly congested and competitive, Thompson said.
And of particular concern to military leaders, space is an increasingly contested domain, with potential adversaries hoping to level the playing field by denying access to space and space-based capabilities, he said. The response, Thompson said, must be the same unity in numbers that has proven itself out in every other domain. Coalitions provide more capability than any one nation can provide alone, while also sending an important deterrent message to potential adversaries, he said.
Unlike recent coalitions, formed for specific periods to accomplish specific objectives, Thompson said he hopes those formed for operations in space endure.
“We have enduring requirements and enduring interests that are common among ourselves. So we see this as a longer-standing coalition with these nations,” he said.
Working together to support their shared interests and objectives, Thompson said, the coalition members will help ensure that space remains a global common open to all.
“Joining together in a coalition is a statement of assurance that each nation
is committed to effective, mutually supportive conduct of operations in space,”
he said. “We are united in a coalition sense when it comes to operations in
space and providing those capabilities for each nation.”