ORLANDO, Fla. — Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the possibility of conflict in space is driving budget priorities as the military services prepare to submit funding requests for 2024.
In a keynote speech March 3 at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium, Kendall said he has directed the Space Force to focus on how to make U.S. space systems “resilient enough to endure while under attack.”
The entire U.S. military force “was designed for an era in which our potential adversaries did not possess space systems of their own that actively threaten our terrestrial joint forces,” he said. “We’ve only begun to define, and have not yet fully resourced, the space systems that we will need to secure the nation.”
Kendall issued a list of priorities he calls “operational imperatives” for the Air Force and the Space Force to shape their budget requests so they are better prepared to compete with China.
At the top of the list is a “resilient space order of battle,” said Kendall. The order of battle is a military term for how a force is structured, organized and equipped for combat. He wants the Space Force to think in those terms as it plans future investments.
Space is tightly coupled with everything the U.S. military does, said Kendall. “The U.S. and its allies depend on space for a range of military services; communications, intelligence, targeting, navigation, and missile warning. Our potential adversaries have fielded their own versions of these services and are also fielding a variety of ways to attack U.S. systems.”
At Kendall’s direction, the Space Force last month issued a request for information to industry on how constellations could be better protected and made more resilient.
Another priority on Kendall’s list of imperatives are technologies to track moving targets, including the use of space sensors, he said. “The targets of interest are air, ground and maritime mobile targets associated with an act of violent aggression, such as the one we just saw in Europe or an invasion of Taiwan.”
The Air Force currently uses “aging and vulnerable legacy systems” like the JSTARS and AWACS radar aircraft, Kendall said. “Ideally we’d prefer to do these functions from space, which should be more cost effective, but that isn’t the only possibility.”
The technology needed to track moving targets from space may take some time to develop and mature so the Air Force may pursue other options. There is an “urgent need to replace some of our aging legacy systems,” said Kendall.