Space systems are a vanguard for the new network-centric force.
The ability of the United States to detect and track moving targets and strike with precision using stealthy platforms now is well-known. This operational advantage incorporates numerous cutting-edge technologies and has revolutionized the way the nation prosecutes the fight, shifting the national security paradigm and fueling our drive for the next steps in transformation. U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, USAF, recently stated, “The day is coming when prompt global strike will be a reality, when the kill chain will be reliably and consistently compressed to minutes instead of hours or days.” The nation will provide even quicker and more lethal response when called to action, enabled by technology and our ability to execute an essential Air Force core competency: technology to warfighting.
Technological advances placed in the hands of highly skilled professionals, particularly for space capabilities, results in a transformation of the way of war. The Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. James Roche, contends, “Warfare is evolving; space is increasingly integral to modern warfare, and it is transforming the way we fight.” The United States increasingly will rely on the integration of space power into air, land and sea platforms to produce even faster, more reliable and more accurate effects. Space will contribute to compressing the kill chain by finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging and assessing targets in the battlespace. The future requires robust space situation awareness, to include characterization and reporting; the ability to seamlessly command and control forces in any theater of operations; defensive and offensive counterspace capabilities; and non-nuclear prompt global-strike- and targeting-quality intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from space.
Successes in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom provided a glimpse into that future. Global Hawk and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles conducted intelligence and combat operations with pilots, operators and analysts in California, thanks to near-instantaneous satellite data streams. And, it is not just the Air Force that has benefited from these capabilities. Space technology improves all our forces. Lt. Gen. Dan Leaf, USAF, Air Force Space Command vice commander, observes, “As the senior airman in the coalition forces’ land component commander’s headquarters during operation Iraqi Freedom, I saw the power of space capabilities benefit the soldiers of the joint team every day.” Gen. Leaf served as the director of the Air Component Coordination Element with the coalition forces’ land component commander. “Space systems were woven through every bit of moving, shooting, and communicating our land forces did,” he states.
Space capabilities rely on the latest technological developments to ensure an asymmetric advantage and to provide a decisive combat edge. But it is not about the next “big breakthrough” in technology—it is the way our space professionals and military innovators utilize both current and emerging technology for increased combat effects. In a technology-savvy age, those who cannot adapt quickly to technological advances will feel the results on the battlefield.
Gen. Lance W. Lord, USAF, is the commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command.