The U.S. Air Force’s top uniformed space official is working to increase awareness among U.S. and allied forces in the Pacific region of the capabilities that satellites can bring to battle.
Gen. Lance Lord, commander of Air Force Space Command, said in an Oct. 21 conference call with reporters that he is working with the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Space Foundation to make an annual event out of a recent conference for military leaders that was designed to show them how space can assist operations in the region. Attendance will be limited to senior officials to foster more intimate discussions, Lord said.
Steve Eisenhart, senior vice president for policy and public affairs at the Space Foundation, said the Pacific Space Leadership Forum, which ran from Oct. 20-21 in Waikiki, Hawaii, had about 75 attendees, primarily U.S. military officials at the one-star level or above, but also allied officers and industry officials at the level of senior vice president or above.
Many of those military officers work in positions that do not deal directly with space operations, and were not intimately familiar with the ways that satellites can help them, Eisenhart said in an Oct. 27 interview.
Lord said he began thinking of the idea of a Pacific space forum after speaking at a commander’s conference last fall in Hawaii at the invitation of Air Force Gen. Paul Hester, commander of Pacific Air Forces.
Satellite capabilities — particularly communications — are critical to U.S. Pacific Command, which has a much larger area of responsibility than commands like U.S. Central Command or U.S. European Command, Lord said.
“With 16 time zones and 65 countries, it’s a lot of area to cover,” Lord said. “Connectivity really pays off.”
Lord noted that awareness of space capabilities within U.S. Pacific forces already has begun to grow with the recent assignments of Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, who previously served as vice commander of Air Force Space Command, to serve as vice command of U.S. Pacific Command, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Fraser, who last served as director of Air and Space Operations at Air Force Space Command, to serve as commander of Alaskan Command.
Lord spoke at the conference on Oct. 20 about space issues ranging from the use of satellite communications and GPS signals during the tsunami relief effort in Thailand to the need to protect U.S. use of satellites and stop enemies from taking advantage of space or taking steps to prevent the U.S. from using its space assets .
“The bottom line is the future capabilities provided by space forces will enable land, air and sea forces in the Pacific to completely transform every facet of operations, and for that reason it’s more important than ever for us to protect our space assets from those who would threaten them,” Lord said in a transcript of his speech. “Let me be clear, I’m not talking about hand-to-hand combat in space.”
In his conference call with reporters, Lord declined to comment on whether the Pentagon has used hardware like the ground-based Counter-Communications System that uses radio frequency to temporarily jam a communications satellite used by an enemy. The Air Force fielded the Counter Communications System last fall, and troops have been trained to use it, Lord said.