Teaming Up to Fight in Space

Space is without a doubt a contested domain, and the US military and the intelligence community are teaming up to face the challenge, Maj. Gen. Catherine Chilton, mobilization assistant to the commander of Air Force Space Command, said recently at the West Coast Aerospace Forum, a joint venture with AFA’s Mitchell Institute, RAND’s Project Air Force, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Aerospace Corporation.

Chilton offered a clear and direct statement that space is a contested domain. Led by the 2007 Chinese anti-satellite test, a cascade of developments by a variety of nations have left no ambiguity in this regard. Nor is there such a thing as a war isolated in space—conflict will span domains, and “this is a conversation we have needed to have for a long time,” she said.

According to Chilton, the best way to manage this threat is to be prepared for it. “New technologies, [tactics, techniques, and procedures], concepts of operation, and vision are crucial. So too is pressing ahead in a joint fashion, in a total team fashion with the Air Force, [US Strategic Command], and [the National Reconnaissance Office] aligned through the new Space Warfighting Construct.”

This document lays forth a flight plan to 2030, assessing where we are, how to get to necessary future goals, what modifications need to be made to legacy system elements, and a new space warfighting concepts of operations.

Space professionals must also evolve their thinking from a technical perspective to a warfighting vantage. Chilton explained that in the past, a problem with a space-based asset was almost always technical, with a systems-focused solution. Now, we must consider adversary interference as a driver and have appropriate responses. This means a robust set of indicators to provide situational awareness—paired with a robust command and control system—will be crucial in affording necessary resilience and responsiveness.