Air Force Space Command is ready to award the contract for the Space Fence, but is waiting on the go-ahead from the Pentagon’s acquisition executive, said Gen. William Shelton, AFSPC commander, on Tuesday. The contract is “held up” at that level while officials determine whether it is a “priority” for the Defense Department to proceed, said Shelton during a Capitol Hill breakfast speech that AFA, the National Defense Industrial Association, and the Reserve Officers Association sponsored. “I’ll tell you from a personal perspective, it’s a high priority for Air Force Space Command,” said Shelton. The Space Fence is envisioned as an S-band radar system capable of monitoring objects in low Earth orbit, even items just the size of a softball. It would replace the 1960s-vintage Air Force Space Surveillance System. If the Pentagon acquisition leadership does not allow the Space Fence program to proceed at this time, service life-extension programs would be considered for the sensors in use today, said Shelton. However, “there’s not anything that we’ve got that we could upgrade to replicate the capabilities” that the Space Fence would provide, he said during the July 16 event. (See also Space Fence Bids In.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.