Video Interview: The Militarization of Space
The Air Force’s intense and vigorous push to prepare for high-tech space war is focused on architecting the weapons needed to destroy incoming enemy ICBMs, build new generations of lower-orbit, faster-moving networked satellites and exploring a new generation of weapons to function beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
This includes the prospect of some yet-to-exist systems such as space drones, lasers for missile defense or perhaps satellite fired weapons. Of course much of the space focus is rightly focused on entirely new, paradigm-changing methods of “sensing” and “seeing” both within and beyond the earth’s atmosphere to include land, sea, air and space domains.
Space warfare technologies have as much if not more impact upon land, sea and air dimensions within the earth’s atmosphere as well as space-specific technologies such as elements of missile defense or satellite hardening.
Speaking recently at the Air Force Association symposium, service Secretary Frank Kendall emphasized the need to “battle harden” space war systems to ensure sustained operational functionality in high-threat space warfare circumstances.
“The simple fact is that the U.S. cannot project power successfully unless our space-based services are resilient enough to endure while under attack,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in an Air Force report. “Equally true, our terrestrial forces, Joint and Combined, cannot survive and perform their missions if our adversary’s space-based operational support systems, especially targeting systems, are allowed to operate with impunity.”
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Medium and Low Earth Orbit Satellites
The addition of hundreds of new Medium and Low Earth Orbit Satellites are quickly changing the equation by enabling greater degrees of connectivity between otherwise separated radar “apertures” or “fields of regard.”
This can help establish a “continuous track” on fast-moving and otherwise elusive target such as incoming hypersonic missiles. With sufficient, hardened network technologies and built-in redundancy, new constellations of MEO and LEO satellites can network with Geosynchronous satellites to create an integrated web.
Part of the survivability of these systems, as pointed out by Kendall, involve a mixture of specific space war tactics, strategies and areas of technological focus intended to ensure space weapons and platforms can continue to operate when under attack.
A few of these concepts can be understood in terms of disaggregation and redundancy, meaning a large collection of dispersed space and satellite nodes can ensure mission functionality in the event that one node, satellite or system is destroyed or impaired. Dispersed, yet securely networked nodes, operating as part of a broader web of “meshed” systems can also ensure operations should one system be destroyed by an anti-satellite weapon, for example.
Hardening the networks themselves is also fundamental to Kendall point about preparing space systems for war. This can include building in cyber resiliency early in the developmental process along with anti-jamming technologies to ensure information transfer can operate when under attack.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.