The US lead in military space is “eroding,” according to Air Force Acting Undersecretary Jamie Morin. Maintaining an edge will require both smarter operations and ensuring the health of the space industrial base, he told attendees of AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles on Thursday. He said the Air Force is trying to preserve its space dominance—and guard against its space vulnerabilities—by building denial-of-space preparations into all aspects of its operations. A space aggressor squadron that stood up in 2002 is now involved in more than 22 major exercises and training events a year, and demand is “growing exponentially” for its participation, he said. “Our adversaries recognize our . . . almost insurmountable advantage” gained by space-enabled capabilities and the Air Force must be ready to cope with inevitable attacks on them, he said during his Nov. 15 address. A robust space situational awareness capability is one part of that. The industrial base must become more “agile and resilient,” and that’s why the service is exploring both innovative satellite production and bringing “new entrants” into the space launch business, he said. Pentagon acquisition executive Frank Kendall is “quite close” to completing a plan for future competition of EELV-class space launches, said Morin. New entrants will be able to compete with United Launch Alliance—which builds the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets now in use—”as soon as they’re certified,” said Morin. Four such companies have already filed “statements of intent” to compete, he said.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.