Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein addresses a group of airmen in the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in mid August. Credit: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Desiree Economides

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – With both launch costs and payload size going down, it will be easier for  the U.S. Air Force to deploy the right kinds of sensors and systems to fight future space wars that will depend more on information and networking, said Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff.

“What does lower cost and miniaturization mean to us?” Goldfein asked Sept. 19 during a speech at the annual Air Force Association Air Space Cyber Conference here.

Both could prove to be in vital importance in future warfighting scenarios, he said, which will hinge on fast, secure networks. It will be much easier to get smaller sensors and network nodes aloft with cheaper launches.

In the future, he said, there will be two major concerns:

“Does it connect? Good. Does it share? Even better.”

Such networking is important for space and air assets, he noted, given that every warfighting plan involving the United States’ major strategic threats – China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and violent extremism – involve those assets.

In the joint mindset of U.S. military planning, he said, the U.S. Air Force is the space-coordinating authority.

“We own space,” he said. “It is who we are. It is based on the obligation we have.”

Calling space the “ultimate high ground,” Goldfein pointed out the Air Force already controls 17 constellations in orbit that provide everything from early-warning alerts of a ballistic missile launch to the GPS signals that people depend on for every day transportation.

While those same GPS signals help with global navigation and even financial transactions, they also help make it possible to guide precision weapons to strike targets around the world.

Echoing comments made earlier in the conference by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, Goldfein said such space superiority is not an American “birthright,” but rather a capability that must be defended and protected.

Mike Fabey is SpaceNews' senior staff writer covering military and national security space matters. Mike previously covered as Defense News’ air and space warfare reporter in 2005 and 2006. Mike was an Aviation Week...