Give JADC2 to Space Force, along with ASAT weapons: Mitchell report

By Theresa Hitchens,
Published by Breaking Defense, 24 October 2022

“We may say that we don’t want to, and we stand behind not doing, kinetic debris creating testing, but that does not mean that we should not have that capability,” said Mitchell Institute Senior Fellow for Spacepower Studies Tim Ryan.

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department needs centralized management of its ambitious Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) effort, and the Space Force should be given that responsibility because of the “indispensable role” space capabilities play in linking sensors to shooters, asserts a new policy paper by the Mitchell Institute.

“Congress should reinforce the authority of the Chief of Space Operations as the Space Force design architect by ensuring the service has the primary responsibility of overseeing the integration of the entire JADC2 system,” the paper recommends. “This authority should include bounding requirements and establishing standards for incorporating machine learning, optical communications, cyber and crypto security, software-defined networks, and distributed computing capabilities for JADC2 across all of DOD.”

Ownership of JADC2 has been something of a hot potato within the Defense Department, as each military service is pursuing their own programs to contribute to the effort but there’s little overall coordination beyond a cross-functional team at the Joint Staff level.

More controversially, according to author Tim Ryan, the service must be funded to develop new space-based weapons — and even, he suggested, direct ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles that the Biden administration has eschewed — to “defend” the satellites in multiple orbits, from the Space Development Agency’s planned data transport satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) to the military satellite communications birds in geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

“The administration has come out and said: ‘Listen, we do not support kinetic a ASAT testing that is debris creating,” Ryan, who is a Mitchell senior fellow for spacepower studies, said in a webinar today to explain the paper’s findings. “[W]e need to explore the norms in space, and that is all fine. …. We may say that we don’t want to, and we stand behind not doing, kinetic debris creating testing, but that does not mean that we should not have that capability.”

The paper, “The Indispensable Domain: The Critical Role of Space in JADC2,” thus recommends that “Congress must approve robust resourcing to enable the Space Force to deliver enhanced space domain awareness and to develop space-based weapons systems that are specifically designed to defend the JADC2 space transport layer against kinetic and non-kinetic acts of aggression.”

The paper contends that space systems have become the foundational element in fighting and winning a major war with peer adversaries such as China and Russia.

“Warfighting in the space domain will determine the outcome of future conflicts. The reason for this is simple: success in war will go to the side that possesses superior battlespace knowledge, makes better decisions, directs forces more effectively, and closes kill chains faster. Technologies on orbit are pivotal in securing this advantage, especially when it comes to sensors and connectivity,” the paper states.

JADC2 is the Pentagon’s vision for reaching those goals by “getting relevant information to each warfighter at the right time to achieve the desired effects, all at a global scale,” the paper continues. “Space-based technologies will prove essential for manifesting this capability — especially when it comes to space-based sensors and communication links, called the transport layer.”

SDA’s Transport Layer is being developed via rapidly launching batches of satellites to LEO every two years with incrementally improved capabilities to relay data from current satellites to weapons platforms on the ground, at sea, and in the air — as well as to bounce data from satellite to satellite via hard-to-jam optical inter-satellite links so it can be downloaded to users anywhere on the globe.

Ryan fretted that the Space Force currently doesn’t have any plans, much less a budget for providing “backup” to the Transport Layer.

“Sensor nodes on orbit and the space Transport Layer must be hardened, be deployed in a proliferative network system and undertake system resiliency measures to include rapid reconstitution,” he said.

Brad Tousley, vice president of strategy and technology at Raytheon Intelligence and Space, told the webinar that two possibilities for providing alternate data relay pathways would be putting some Transport Layer satellites in different orbits, and shifting to commercial satellite communications networks.

“From a physics perspective, you can leverage capabilities across all orbits, and I think that’s the right thing to do. Second, from a backup standpoint, there’s going to be a huge amount of commercial capability that has been launched, is being launched, is going to be launched,” he said.

Ryan acknowledged that his eight recommendations — which also include DoD funding for other services to defend space assets and for beefing up space domain awareness — will not be easy or cheap.

“There’s no doubt it’ll be an expensive and complex program. But the opportunity cost of ignoring the threat, and overall impact of US forces and warfighting capabilities, is far greater. It is cheaper to do it right the first time, and there is no second chance,” he said.

See: Original Article