Space Mission Force: The Next Frontier

The transition to the “space mission force” has begun. The 50th Space Wing this month will begin phasing in a new construct in which operators spend six months focused specifically on the mission, then have six months to reconstitute and apply lessons learned, said Maj. Gen. Martin Whelan during an Oct. 2 AFA Mitchell Institute breakfast on Capitol Hill. The plan, put forward by Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command, starts with the 50th Space Wing, followed by the 21st and then the 460th, said Whelan, the Air Force’s director of future operations. Now, the most seasoned space operators “are Monday through Friday, 9 to 5,” he said. “We put the seasoned fighter pilots on the pointy end of the spear … the space mission force is trying to get after that.” While the transition may be “clunky” for the 50th Space Wing, the process will become smoother with subsequent wings, he said. The transition changes the way space command presents its forces, he said, to align it with the rest of the Air Force and “better posture ourselves for any threat that comes forward,” Whelan said. “In the end, … you get to a better force, you get to a better mission capability, you get to a better posture with the space mission force.”