Since the Chinese anti-satellite missile test of early 2007, the U.S. space community has swarmed to address how to protect space power now and in the future. Based on testimony from leading commanders, the
United States must invest in tenfold improvement in global strike, space situational awareness, and flexible intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. These capabilities enable attribution and, more importantly, retribution should any nation interfere with U.S. space power.
It seems natural to build such expensive, complex systems to protect expensive, complex satellites. U.S. Air Force Gen.
Bernard Schriever dubbed this “technological war,” famously predicting that “the kind and quality of systems which a nation develops can decide the battle in advance and make the final conflict a mere formality – or can bypass conflict altogether.”
In many other aspects of its mission, however, the Air Force is recognizing that technological superiority is an incomplete solution. The newly created International Affairs Specialist program proves the U.S. Air Force
will work intimately with global partners and recognizes future operations will require carefully crafted relationships. It is the right time to apply this inclusive mentality to U.S. space power. There are numerous opportunities to expand relationships with space counterparts in places such as India and Europe.
India, for example,
currently is deciding the composition and role of its own space force, Aerospace Command. Senior Indian air force officers are eyeing the U.S. Air Force
as a model, and have visited to learn more. In turn, perhaps we can learn something from them. As an example, exercise Cope India proved to be eye-opening for U.S. Air Force pilots, when they were reminded that supposedly outdated technology can be consistently surprising
in the hands of skilled operators. In the past
20 years, India’s space power has met numerous challenges with unique solutions – what can we learn from them?
also is transforming its space power. Simple,
global-market friendly solutions such as those used by England’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. gives us a glimpse of what effective “responsive space” might look like. With a new generation of federated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
satellites coming online, the European Union
also is tackling how to effectively share space data in what essentially is the coalition environment of the European Union. Many will argue that despite decades of experience, even the
United States lacks a decent solution to this problem – therefore it is worth some amount of collaboration.
Granted, international cooperation
still is uncomfortable to many in the U.S. space community. A common concern is that through international exchanges, the
United States will reveal sensitive capabilities or vulnerabilities that could be exploited by our adversaries. It is also common, however, to underestimate the sophistication many nations already possess. In fact, there is a sizable common denominator of capability that could be
discussed and shared more freely.
In the increasingly multi-polar space power environment, even a fractional investment in building ties will yield returns in developing space as a shared center of gravity, enable coalition-based threat monitoring and defense, and help
the United States realistically test
its policy and warfighting assumptions. Developing familiar relationships now is a worthy parallel investment and may prove a critical complement to any technical system currently pursued.
U. S, Air Force Capt.
Matthew Schmunk is an astronautical engineering student at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The views expressed in this article are
the author’s and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.