David Ray is senior vice president of space at SAIC, a federal contractor headquartered in Reston, Virginia.

The United States needs resilient space-based sensing capabilities for global detection, tracking and custody of advanced ballistic and hypersonic missile threats. These capabilities must integrate into the missile defense kill chain with existing space-based and terrestrial sensing, command and control, and effectors to enable early and effective engagement of these threats.

A U.S. Space Force strategic warning and space surveillance center at Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, monitors strategic missile warning systems. Credit: U.S. Air Force

Blending existing investments with new elements presents a system of systems integration challenge. Smaller satellites from the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA) and advanced effectors such as hypersonic missiles must rapidly integrate to form a resilient missile warning, tracking and custody architecture. Our nation’s missile defense must maintain pace with the fast-paced threats and disruptions from countries like China and Russia. 

In 2022, the Space Force established a combined program office with the Space Systems Command, Space Development Agency and Missile Defense Agency to build the Resilient Missile Warning, Tracking, Custody force design. Since then, the integrated working group has collaborated on shared technical information and solutions toward an integrated system of satellites, battle management command, control and communications (BMC3) and effectors that can track and engage missiles moving at hypersonic speeds. Prior to this, agencies had long struggled to collaborate on an integrated architecture for space-based missile defense. In 2021, the Space Warfighting Analysis Center (SWAC) led a review to design the future force design needed to defend against our near-peer threats.

Cross-agency collaboration is essential to rapidly integrate these capabilities into operations. The DoD needs to establish a resilient, collaborative and protected digital ecosystem to truly advance our nation’s missile tracking and warning capabilities. The Resilient Missile Warning, Tracking, Custody Combined Program Office, working collaboratively with DoD and IC stakeholders, is a good step in establishing unity of effort.

As the DoD and IC collaborate on missile warning, tracking and defense solutions, leadership must establish multi-domain data integration, leverage commercial innovation to increase the speed of acquisition cycles, and champion integration to accelerate end-to-end capability delivery.

  1. Establish Multi-domain Data Sharing 

With the Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control’s (CJADC2) data integration layer concept, there has been an increased reliance on information sharing and data interoperability. Within space, defense agencies are investing in non-traditional sensor capabilities and building interconnected satellite communication structures that underscore the importance of having one single source or location to house data.

Integrating critical information through secure commercial networks, civil networks and defense networks will ensure more effective information sharing, coordination, and collaboration among stakeholders across enterprises. Establishing a unified and secure data integration framework will also streamline decision-making processes and ultimately influence the effectiveness of missile tracking and warning capabilities.

  1. Leverage Commercial Innovation to Increase Speed of Acquisition Cycles

Over the past years, the U.S.’s domestic space industry has grown its capabilities and advancements at unprecedented rates. However, while the technology has evolved, the DoD’s procurement process has remained stagnant. By prioritizing speed in today’s technology acquisition, the DoD can guarantee that it stays ahead of emerging missile threats by leveraging commercial products, processes and expertise. 

Leveraging commercial innovation and best practices, such as low-orbit Earth satellites in the SDA’s PWSA tracking and transport layer constellations, will not only accelerate resilient missile defense advancements but also increase the speed of operational deployment of enhanced missile warning tracking and custody capabilities. Supported by the Space Force acquisition executive Frank Calvelli’s acquisition tenants, this mindset will enable the DoD and IC to quickly adapt to evolving threats and effectively protect national security interests.

  1. Champion Integration to Accelerate End-to-End Capability Delivery

Accelerating end-to-end delivery requires continuous integration to rapidly deliver secure, interoperable capabilities. To achieve this vision, we need experienced integrators applying agile, model-based systems engineering, digital transformation and mission expertise.  These integrators must drive collaboration and trust among government and industry and across multiple warfighting domains. We need a cyber-resilient, protected digital ecosystem that connects platforms, sensors, weapons and systems to enable end-to-end system life-cycle integration. Finally, we need a secure, trusted, and collaborative common operating environment to enable informed and faster decision-making.   

Demonstrated as a major theme in the remarks during the Japan, Republic of Korea and United States trilateral partnership, space-based missile warning, tracking and defense has never been more critical to national and allied security. Our coalition of allies faces crucial inflection points in integrating a Resilient Missile Warning, Tracking, Custody force design. In order to build a responsive and resilient missile defense architecture, the U.S. and our allies need an integrated, collaborative strategy for unity of effort. 

David Ray is senior vice president of space at SAIC, a federal contractor headquartered in Reston, Virginia.