‘Stop debating’ over space weapons and prepare for conflict: Space Force general

U.S. Space Force Maj. Gen. David Miller, U.S. Space Command Director, Operations, Training and Force Development, addressed Academic Fair attendees at the USSPACECOM inaugural event, Mar. 8, 2022, held at the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcon Club. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Philip Wagner, Jr.)

By Theresa Hitchens,
Published by Breaking Defense, 26 June 2023

America’s space operators need to “get to the point of how do we responsibly… deter conflict that nobody wants to see, but if we do see it, demonstrate our ability to win?” said Maj. Gen. David Miller.

WASHINGTON — The Space Force urgently needs to develop a broad range of offensive and defensive counterspace weapons based on orbit to counter China — starting with a clear policy statement of US government intent and the development of an integrated plan for building such an arsenal, argues a new paper from the Mitchell Institute.

They’re recommendations that “resonate with almost every Guardian that’s out there” and with “United States Space Command in particular,” said Maj. Gen. David Miller, US Space Command director of operations, training, and force development (J3), during an online Mitchell Institute event today to unveil the policy paper.

“We’ve got to … stop debating if it’s a warfighting domain, stop debating whether there are weapons, and get to the point of how do we responsibly, as part of the joint and combined force, deter conflict that nobody wants to see, but if we do see it, demonstrate our ability to win?” he said. “We have to get about the process and the prospects of — from multiple domains, not just the space domain — providing capability to find, fix and deny any adversary capability to find and target US forces or allied forces.”

The paper, “Building US Space Force Counterspace Capabilities: An Imperative for America’s Defense,” acknowledges the value of diplomacy for norm setting and the service’s current focus on building resilience, but it says that these to approaches are not enough to provide deterrence to a more aggressive China and Russia — both of which have been steadily working to build up their own capabilities to target US satellites.

Further, the paper stresses that China is rapidly expanding its own military space capabilities — such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and communications satellites — designed to allow the People’s Liberation Army to better project force outside of its own territory and its ability to go toe-to-toe with the US military in a conflict. For this reason, it says, the Space Force also needs offensive weapons to take away the advantages the PLA will gain from those new capabilities that put US forces in harms way.

The Mitchell recommendations in essence put forward an implementation plan for the “competitive endurance” framework for achieving “space superiority” laid out by Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman in March. That strategy calls for the Space Force to develop capabilities to target adversary space systems in a manner that doesn’t result in a “Pyrrhic victory” by also destroying the space environment — what Saltzman dubbed as “responsible counterspace campaigning.”

As a first step, Charles Galbreath, a senior fellow at Mitchell and a retired Space Force colonel writes, the US must “adjust national and military policy” to “direct the development” of counterspace capabilities and “send a clear message to potential adversaries that the United States is serious about defending its interests in space.”

Secondly, Galbreath’s paper posits that the Space Force’s Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC) should “conduct an accelerated assessment to define a robust force design” to flesh out “an architecture that will give theater commanders reversible and irreversible options to conduct both terrestrial-based and space-based defensive and offensive operations that will not create long-lived debris in space.”

The paper adds that that architecture should not just include ground, air, sea and space-based counterspace weapons to target Chinese space systems, but also US military satellites with on-board defense systems. It also requires a robust infrastructure — such as improved space domain awareness and satellite control networks — to allow operations to be executed “at scale.”

Miller echoed the need for improved space domain awareness as a foundation to space warfighting, saying that among the military services, Space Force “probably” has the “least amount of awareness” of the domain for which it is responsible — primarily because the Pentagon’s “legacy approach … assumed a permissive environment.”

He stressed that while “significant progress” has been made by the Space Force over the past couple of years, “We’ve also not really fielded a globally capable, precision-quality, custody focused space domain awareness enterprise informed by an intelligence sector of dedicated professionals to the level that we need to, and that’s a key focus area for me.”

See: Original Article