U.S. Space Command adopts multipronged approach to prepare for ‘a conflict that has never happened’

By Debra Werner,
Published by Space News, 9 April 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS – U.S. Space Command seeks to expand international collaboration by inviting Germany, France and New Zealand to join Operation Olympic Defender. Olympic Defender, a U.S.-led initiative to jointly strengthen defenses and deter hostility, already includes England, Australia and Canada.

“We share intelligence, we plan together and work to ensure space is safe for all,” Gen. Stephen Whiting, commander of U.S. Space Command,­ said April 9 at the 39th Space Symposium here. “We’re working to even improve our integration through improved command and control and planning. I’ve been proud to work alongside Germany, France and New Zealand for many years, and I look forward to their consideration of our invitation to join Operation Olympic Defender.”

Preparing for military operations with U.S. allies and partners is one of U.S. Space Command’s top priorities.  

Other priorities for the Colorado-based organization are making its constellations more resilient, defending them against a growing array of threats, protecting the joint force from space-enabled attack, and conducting tests and training “that convinces us that these capabilities will work in a conflict which has never happened,” Whiting said.

Strategic Competition

As the combatant command responsible for military operations in outer space, U.S. Space Command is closely tracking military moves by China and Russia.

China is rapidly expanding space-based intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, and building a “range of counterspace weapons from reversible jamming all the way up to kinetic hit-to-kill direct-ascent and co-orbital” anti-satellite weapons, Whiting said.

Russia, meanwhile, “continues to invest in counterspace weapons,” Whiting said. “Russia appears more and more to be relying on asymmetric capabilities like space, cyber and nuclear.”

2027 Deadline

U.S. Space Command is focused on maximizing combat readiness by 2027.

“All of us at U.S. Space Command are laser-focused on improving all of our existing forces and capabilities, so that we can stitch them together seamlessly when called upon,” Whiting said.

U.S. Space Command also intends to draw on commercial space technology.

“Our commercial industry will deliver innovative state-of-the-art capabilities,” Whiting said. “We have to modernize our legacy systems, ensure they all work together seamlessly and deliver new capabilities by 2027 to counter the threats that we now see.”

Beyond 2027

At the same time, U.S. Space Command is eager to adopt technology that is likely to pay off in the longer term.

“It’s time to bring dynamic space operations and on-orbit logistics and infrastructure to the space domain,” Whiting said. “Sustained space maneuver will change how we operate, opening up new tactics, techniques, procedures and operating concepts, and allowing operations until the mission is complete, not until the fuel we launched with runs out.”

With an eye toward future conflict, U.S. Space Command also is expanding its reliance on modeling and simulation.

Whiting announced that Space Command’s Capability Assessment and Validation Environment, a modeling and simulation laboratory known as CAVE, has achieved minimum viable capability.

CAVE “enables us to perform analysis on warfighting, on plans, on campaigning,” Whiting said. Space Command will rely on CAVE to help plan “operations for a war that’s never happened and a war we don’t want to happen. We’ll also use it to figure out our combatant command requirements and gain insights into multi-domain joint-warfighting concepts.”

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