WASHINGTON — The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the importance of coordination among allies in the air, on land and at sea — and that collaboration should also apply to the space domain, the head of the U.S. Space Force told an audience of international military leaders.

“Interoperable equipment, common communications and network infrastructure, these are the building blocks of successful multinational operations. If we ignore these lessons in space, space will be disconnected from the greater effort and operational effectiveness will suffer,” Gen. Chance Saltzman, U.S. chief of space operations, said July 13 in a speech at the 2023 Global Air & Space Chiefs’ Conference in London. 

“Certainly the situation in Ukraine has demonstrated the critical importance of timely coordination among partners,” Saltzman said. 

“To implement these lessons in space, we must collectively build tactics, techniques and procedures, just as we’ve done in every other domain,” he added.

To defend the U.S. and allies’ space infrastructure from cyber attacks and other threats, said Saltzman, “we must collectively train like we fight. We must collectively operate together as a coalition … The bottom line is that international cooperation is absolutely essential to achieving a safe, stable, secure and sustainable space domain.”

Military reliance on satellites

The Ukraine conflict put on display military forces’ significant dependence on satellites, creating incentives to disrupt opponents’ access to space systems, Saltzman said.

The U.S. and allies, he said, “must normalize how space operations are baked into joint and coalition planning.”

Saltzman said he was impressed by NATO efforts to promote joint training for space operations. The alliance established the NATO Space Center at Allied Air Command headquarters in Ramstein, Germany. Earlier this year, NATO members signed off on the creation of the NATO Space Center of Excellence in Toulouse, France, dedicated to space defense.

Military officials participate in a training exercise at the NATO Space Center in Ramstein, Germany. Credit: NATO

The center is co-located with the French Air Force Space Command and the Centre National d’études Spatiales (CNES).

Saltzman noted that more nations are establishing organizations dedicated to space operations. “All our efforts, including the U.S. Space Force, are still nascent in this regard. We still have much to do to normalize space operations, tactics, techniques, procedures, and standards just as we have done in the other domains.”

The Ukraine conflict “has made it clear that access to and use of space is fundamental to modern warfare. It is also clear that technology is a force enabler that must be supported by integrated training, and coalition operations,” he said.

“Historically, space has been an area of unilateral action,” Saltzman added. “This must change. We need to work together as responsible actors to protect the safety and security of space. We need to improve cooperation, coordination, and opportunities for interoperability.”

“We need to collectively sustain freedom of action in space, optimize our resources, enhance mission assurance and resilience, and most importantly, deter conflict,” Saltzman said. 

In his speech at the London conference, Saltzman laid out the tenets of a multifaceted strategy he rolled out in March called “competitive endurance” to guide Space Force plans to deter and combat adversaries.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...