smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who
wait to adapt themselves after changes occur.
one would deny that the character of war has changed over the past century. The twentieth
century saw a transition from attrition warfare in both world wars to guerilla warfare in
Vietnam. The global-security situation has evolved from a standoff between superpowers
throughout the Cold War to regional conflicts in the Balkans and Southwest Asia,
humanitarian operations, and the global war on terrorism. The latest evolution of Air
Force basic doctrine reminds us of the necessity to remain aware of the lessons of
the pastalert and receptive to future technologies and paradigms because they
may, in some manner or another, alter the art of air and space warfare.1
Air Force Space Command is on a path today that takes these words of wisdom to heart. This
article outlines that path by looking first at some key lessons learned from recent
conflicts, the foundation laid early on in military space operations, and, finally, the
vision for the Air Force Space Command of the future.
events unfold before our eyes around the world as if we were there. We have advance
warning of adverse weather as it develops. We can communicate with people 10 or 10,000
miles away with equal ease, and a small receiver tells us our exact position and how fast
we are moving in the air, on land, or at sea. New technologies move large amounts of data
around the world at the speed of light. Although a century ago people would have
considered such feats science fiction, modern space capabilities make these, and so many
more things, unquestionable facts. Space power has transformed our society and our
military. Today, at the outset of the twenty-first century, we simply cannot liveor
fight and winwithout it.
many people refer to Operation Desert Storm as the first space war, it did not mark the
first use of space capabilities during conflict. During the war in Vietnam, space
systemscommunications and meteorological satellitesprovided near-real-time
data that was essential for combat operations.2 The Gulf War of 1991, however,
was the first conflict in history to make comprehensive use of space systems
support.3 Since then, we have worked hard to integrate the high-tech
advantages provided by speed-of-light space capabilities into all our forcesair,
land, and sea. Those efforts significantly improved our American joint way of war, and
they paid off during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
forces led a coalition that set benchmarks for speed, precision, lethality, reach, and
flexibility. As President George W. Bush said on 1 May 2003 aboard the USS Abraham
Lincoln, Operation Iraqi Freedom was carried out with a combination of precision and
speed and boldness the enemy did not expect, and the world had not seen before. From
distant bases or ships at sea, we sent planes and missiles that could destroy an enemy
division, or strike a single bunker.4 In a matter of minutesnot
hours, days, or weeks as in past warscommanders identified and engaged targets and
received timely battle damage assessment. Lt Gen T. Michael Buzz Moseley, the
combined force air component commander, reinforced the role that space capabilities played
when he said, The satellites have been just unbelievably capable . . . supporting
conventional surface, naval, special ops and air forces. Theyve made a huge
difference for us.5
warriors deployed to the coalitions air and space operations centers (AOC); some
served as expert advisors to the combined force land component commander; and others
deployed to wing-level units where they integrated, facilitated, and generated
space-combat effects. In the evolving nature of warfare, though, not all of our space
warriors need to deploy. Space forces operating from home stations backed up those
deployed experts and in many cases provided direct support and information to joint and
coalition forces in the field. Throughout the conflict, our space AOC orchestrated and
integrated this time-critical reachback support with theater operations.6
with other highly trained, highly skilled, highly connected, and highly integrated combat
warriors, we can generate unprecedented combat synergy on the battlefield. This
synergysomething we have come to expectis aided immeasurably by eyes, ears,
links, and beacons from the high ground of space.
is a face to spacespace capabilities and their effects touch every facet of our
combat operations, but not until we start looking at specific examples does the impact of
those effects really hit home. Lt Gen Dan Leaf describes this impact: Space systems
were woven through every bit of [the] moving, shooting, and communicating our land forces
did.7 He likes to share a story from Iraqi Freedom that illustrates the
synergy of our forces today.
late March 2003, the lead elements of the 3rd Infantry Division engaged enemy forces just
south of the Iraqi city of Najaf. Members of Charlie Troop of the 3rd Squadron, 7th
Cavalry, encountered Iraqi forces at night in a dust storm and were surrounded. They had
sporadic contact on the east and on the south as well as fairly persistent contact with a
large, armored enemy force on the west while another enemy force was moving down from
Hallah towards Najaf. This contact was so close that Iraqi rocket-propelled grenades
ricocheting off US armored tracks were killing Iraqi soldiers. The severe weather forced
the Iraqis to pack their T-72 tanks and other armored vehicles very tightly together.
During the intense fighting, US Army soldiers dismounted their tracks and picked up enemy
AK-47 rifles from the dead and wounded to fire back at the enemy.
this engagement, an Air Force tactical air controller engaged a reported 20 T-72s and some
10 to 15 other armored vehicles with four 2000-pound global positioning system (GPS)-aided
Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) from an Air Force B-1 bomber. The bomber received the
tasking via satellite communications and, because of GPS navigation satellites, put its
weapons precisely on the enemy, destroying the Iraqi force. When the dust cleared, Charlie
Troop had not suffered any casualties. Coalition forces turned a potential disaster into a
decisive defeat of the enemy while visibly demonstrating the asymmetric advantage that
integrated air and space capabilities can bring to the fight.
example that puts the face to space comes from World War II and the daylight
bombing raids on Schweinfurt, Germany, in 1943. The targets were five ball-bearing
factories essential to German fighter production. On the first mission, which took place
on 17 August, 200 B-17 Flying Fortresses dropped 760,000 pounds of ordnance. Thirty-six
aircraft were lost on that mission alone. On 14 October, America lost an additional 60
aircraft, and another 138 were damaged out of 291 sent on the raid, for a two-mission
total of 68 percent damaged or destroyed! The United States Army Air Forces could not
sustain deep-penetration missions without fighter escortsthe damages were too
severe. As a result, the Allies suspended attacks for four months, and German production
returned to preraid levels.
a single B-2 or B-52 mission with five GPS-guided JDAMs (10,000 pounds of ordnance) would
have much better effects versus the 24 million pounds dropped on Schweinfurt that
destroyed the targets but caused significant collateral damage and numerous civilian
deaths. Once again, this example illustrates the asymmetric effect of integrated air and
space forces. The lessons learned from every contingency operation since Desert Storm
highlight the importance and urgency to fully integrate space into the fight. Today, our
integrated team of dedicated space professionals and the space and missile capabilities
they bring are essential to any fight and, maybe more importantly, to deterring conflict
before it begins. Military space is not in the back room behind the secret door anymore.
we rightfully tout our recent combat successes, Air Force Space Command must move forward
to face even greater challenges in the future. Space capabilities provide an
ever-increasing asymmetric advantage for our nations military. We must not let that
significant advantage become a disabling vulnerability. Future adversaries understand the
importance of space and the advantage it offers our forces. We have to assume that those
same potential adversaries are developing methods to challenge our capabilities. It has
been said that you never really know what you have until it is gone. Imagine
the effects of tugging on the string of spacea string tightly interwoven into the
fabric of our joint force. Our capabilities would quickly begin to unwind. We have enjoyed
a period of unchallenged dominance in military space that has enabled our success since
Desert Storm. Our jobs would become much easier if we could expect this trend to continue,
but we would be living a dream.
concerns and recent lessons learned will significantly influence that future, but Air
Force Space Command also has to look to the past as it develops the space force of the
for the Future
small group of visionaries played key roles in establishing the foundation of our
nations military space power. These space pioneers led the technical innovations
that pushed America throughand helped us winthe Cold War. In 1954 the Air
Force Research and Development Command established the Western Development Division and
named Bernard A. Schriever, a brigadier general at that time, the first commander.8
General Schriever and his team developed the systems that formed the basis of every one of
our current space and missile capabilities. They provided a momentous beginning to the Air
Forces leadership in military space power.
Western Development Division developed the nations intercontinental ballistic
missile (ICBM) program, the Corona/Discoverer satellite-imagery program, and our launch
programs. The division was the home for communications, weather, and navigation satellites
as well as for MIDAS, the first missile-detection program. Technical competency and
technological superiority laid the groundwork for amazing progressprogress
absolutely essential to keep pace with, and ultimately surpass, the Soviets in a race for
survival. Then, like now, the key to that progressthe key to that technical
competency and superioritywas not the systems themselves, but the people who took
those systems from concepts on a drawing board and made them a reality.
and Missile Pioneers
year Air Force Space Command recognizes individuals who played a significant role in the
history of the Air Forces space and missile programs. The achievements of these
pioneers are nothing short of astounding. Their effort formed the capabilities that are
still the best in the world. With a depth of technical expertise and unfailing
determination, they did something that no one had done before. The United States placed
unparalleled trust in these pioneers at a time when failure was simply not an option. This
past year, the inductees included Brig Gen Martin Menter, who, from the late 1950s onward,
was an international leader in the fields of aeronautical and space law. His legal
treatises on space law were the first of their kind anywhere in the world.9
Another inductee in the class of 2003, Col Albert J. Red Wetzel, directed the
Titan ICBM program from its concept stage to operational readiness in 1961.10
Lt John C. Jack Herther designed a three-axis stabilization system during the
late 1950s that enabled Lockheeds Agena space vehicle to become the workhorse of the
Corona reconnaissance program.11 Finally, Capt Robert C. Bob Truax,
US Navy, played an instrumental role over the course of three years in the early stages of
the Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile and WS-117L, the Air Forces advanced
reconnaissance system, at the Western Development Division.12 These innovative
pioneers designed, launched, and overcame all obstacles. They laid the foundation and set
Air Force Space Command on a success-oriented path that served the nation well in the
decades which followed. Our successes in recent contingency and combat operations were
also enabled by a concerted effort to more fully operationalize our space
the last 12 years, operationalizing space operations served as a central tenet of the Air
Force Space Command agenda, and that emphasis paid off. Taking advantage of lessons
learned from air- and missile-operations missions, the command emphasized disciplined and
structured space operations based on sound technical data coupled with robust crew-force
training, evaluations, and inspections. As a result, operational success, readiness, and
competency soared. Air Force Space Command built an extensive knowledge base for space
systems founded on expertise in operational weapon systems while pushing responsibility
down from midgrade officers and senior noncommissioned officers to lieutenants and junior
lessons from the pastthe technical foundation laid by the men and women of the
Western Development Division, the examples set by our space pioneers, and the significant
progress in operationalizing space operations within Air Force Space Commandpoint
clearly to the next step in space power. As our nations dependence on space
capabilities grows, it is critical that we create and then develop a cadre of space
warriors who are equally skilled in operational art and technical expertise. Military
space operations must have a depth of technical and operational expertise in each mission
and weapon system in order to face increased and even more uncertain threats than our
nation confronted during the Cold War.
lessons from the past, when coupled with the uncertain threats looming in the dynamic and
changing security environment of the twenty-first century, necessitate a change in focus
for military space operations: Defending the United States of America through the
control and exploitation of space.13 To that end, our charter for the
future of Air Force Space Command is to maintain the highly successful force-enhancement
roles the command provides our joint forces today and to increase its focus on producing
war-fighting effects with space superiority and strike capabilitiesin short, to
become a full-spectrum space-combat command.
capabilities are inherently global in nature and joint in terms of the effects they
produce. Air Force Space Command must develop and deliver the full spectrum of
space-combat effects. To do that, command and control capabilities must deliver the right
combat effect to the right place at the right time. Doing so requires a fundamental shift
in our thinking. In the past, we focused largely on the force-enhancement role of our
space systems and the deterrence role of our nuclear forces. The space and missile
operations of tomorrow will focus on developing and projecting combat power. To make that
vision a reality, Air Force Space Command has implemented a strategy we call
Commanding the Futureour flight plan for transformation.
of the key components of that flight plan is the human aspect of this crucial
businessspace professionals. World-class scientists, engineers, and operators can be
found in academic institutions, industry, government agencies, and all our military
services.14 Sustained excellence in the scientific and engineering disciplines
is essential to the future of the nations national-security space program. As the
Space Commission pointed out, we cannot take it for granted: Military space
professionals will have to master highly complex technology; develop new doctrine and
concepts of operations for space launch, offensive and defensive space operations, power
projection in, from, and through space, and other military uses of space; and operate some
of the most complex systems ever built and deployed.15
shape the future, the team of tomorrowmade up of these space professionalsmust
build on the success of today as well as the immense legacy of the space and missile
pioneers. Last fall I had the opportunity to speak about officership to cadets at the Air
Force Academy; I was impressed. Their technical and professional military education is
truly second to none, and their leaderships Agenda for Change is really
making great progress. These outstanding young men and women, along with those of the
Reserve Officer Training Corps and Officer Training School, are the future leaders and
pioneers of our Air Force. They will operate, employ, and sustain the systems we are
designing and building today. The space professionals of today are working hard to define
and shape the futurebut these young people will live it!
another key component of our Commanding the Future flight plan, is directly related to the
space-professional concept. Members of the Space Commission cited in their report the
importance of culture and recommended that the Air Force take steps to create a
culture within the Service dedicated to developing new space system concepts, doctrine and
operational capabilities.16 It is the duty and fundamental responsibility
of Air Force Space Command to generate, maintain, and ensure space superiority. We must
see to it that our nation and allies can operate in space and deny that same advantage to
our adversaries. Air Force Space Command is developing a warrior culture, a warrior ethos,
to meet that responsibility.
Airmen, we recognize the importance of gaining and maintaining air superiority in all
conflicts. We design and build aircraft and weapon systems to this requirement and
emphasize this point throughout our professional military education as we train our
warriors and leaders to achieve it. It is the sum total of our service culture. Space
should be no different. Space superiority is our mandate, and space superiority must roll
off our tongues as easily as air superiority. The world today is much more unsettled than
it was during the Cold War. Threats are more unpredictable, and adversaries have
increasingly more technological savvy. Space capabilities have become both a military and
economic center of gravity for our nation and our allies.17 We assume that
these capabilities will always be available and deem them more critical than ever before.
as we gain and maintain air superiority through offensive and defensive counterair
operations, so do we achieve space superiority through offensive and defensive
counterspace operations. Air Force Doctrine Document 2-2, Space Operations, tells
us that space situational awareness (SSA) forms the foundation for all counterspace
and other space actions.18 In other words, robust situational awareness
is absolutely essential to our mandate of ensuring space superiority. Historically, the
command has focused efforts in this area around space surveillance; although that is still
important, there is more to SSA than simply space surveillance.
on data from the 1st Space Control Squadron, located in Cheyenne Mountain Air Force
Station, Colorado, there are over 1,150 satellites in space todayover 300 of those
are US satellites, about 60 of which are military. We also track over 13,500 objects in
space for collision avoidance.19 Although we know and track whats up
there, we must know more. We need to know what capabilities are available to potential
adversaries and need to understand what natural or hostile events can disrupt our use of
space or present threats against our interests on Earth. Adversaries know the value and
benefit we derive from spacea value that enhances, improves, and transforms our
military operations. We must assume they will increasingly try to deny us the asymmetric
advantage that space provides. This assumption proved accurate during Operation Iraqi
Freedom when coalition forces faced a GPS jamming threatand that is only the tip of
the iceberg for what lies in store for the future. We simply must have the ways and means
of detecting, characterizing, reporting, and responding to attacks in the medium of space.
Space is no longer a sanctuary, and our visionour culturemust transform
appropriately. Space superiority must be our first thought. It must become our way of
Air Force Space Command, our Commanding the Future efforts are on track to realize our
vision of a full-spectrum space-combat command that is preeminent in the application of
space power for national security and joint warfare.20 Key to that thought is
the idea of full-spectrum capabilitieskinetic through nonkineticacross the
entire spectrum of conflict. We will be able to rapidly bring the full weight of space
power to bear globally, generating war-fighting effects when and where needed. We will
also be aware of, and be able to counter, an adversarys attempt to exploit this same
set of advantages.
is the key to making this vision a reality? Actually, it is very simplepeople! Our
space professionals will be warriorsthey must have that focus. Space professionals
must understand the comprehensive set of space capabilities and the effects they can
deliver, but they must also understand how those effects are integrated with those
generated in the air, on land, or at sea. They will be expertsnot only in operations
but also in the acquisition process. The new space cadre will have a broad space-education
background with in-depth expertise in weapon systems. Why so many requirements? Are we
asking them to be space pioneers? Well, in a word, yes. The next generation of our space
capabilities, which we are developing today, will be more complex, more dynamic, more
integrated, and more responsive to both theater and global requirements.21 The
space professionals of the future must take advantage of those capabilities.
this seems like a lot of change, it is, but there should be no question that this process
is absolutely necessary. Air Force Space Command must focus on the future and be ready for
whatever it brings. If our past experiences have taught us anything, it is that we must be
ready for new and unexpected challengeswe must be ready for surprises. To do that,
we have to transform our way of doing business. Through this transformation, though, some
things will remain the same. In a speech to the National Defense University in January
2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reminded Americas military of another
time of such dramatic changes: In 1962, during a similar time of upheaval and
transformation, as our forces prepared to meet the new challenges of the Cold War, General
MacArthur addressed the cadets at West Point, and he said, Through all this welter
of change, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: It is to win wars.
The mission of the armed forces remains equally fixed today, equally determined and
evolution of Air Force Space Command over the next few years will make certain that we
continue to meet that goal and accomplish our mission. The character of war is truly
dynamic, and our anticipation of those changes will ensure that victory continues to smile
on us all.
Force Doctrine Document (AFDD) 1, Air Force Basic Doctrine, 17 November 2003, 105.
N. Spiers et al., eds., Beyond Horizons: A Half Century of Air Force Space Leadership
(Peterson AFB, CO: Air Force Space Command, 1997), 169.
of the Persian Gulf War: Final Report to Congress (Washington, DC: Department of
Defense, April 1992).
Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended: Remarks by the President from
the USS Abraham Lincoln at Sea Off the Coast of San Diego, California, 1 May
2003, http://www.whitehouse. gov/news/releases/2003/05/iraq/20030501-15.html.
Gen Michael Moseley, Coalition Forces Air Component Command Briefing, United
States Department of Defense, News Transcript, 5 April 2003,
AOC is located at Vandenberg AFB, CA.
Gen Daniel P. Leaf, Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, CO, interview by Maj John
Wagner, 14 August 2003. Currently the vice-commander of Air Force Space Command, General
Leaf served as director of the Air Component Coordination Element for the combined force
land component commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Bernard A. Schriever, Military Space Activities: Recollections and
Observations, in The U.S. Air Force in Space: 1945 to the Twenty-first Century,
ed. R. Cargill Hall and Jacob Neufeld (Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums
Program, 1998), 15.
Force Space Command Historians Office, Brigadier General Martin Menter, Air
Force Space and Missile Pioneers, http://www.peterson.af.mil/hqafspc/
Force Space Command Historians Office, Colonel Albert J. Wetzel, Air
Force Space and Missile Pioneers,
Force Space Command Historians Office, Mr. John C. Herther, Air Force
Space and Missile Pioneers, http://www.peterson.af.mil/hqafspc/history/herther.htm.
Force Space Command Historians Office, Captain Robert C. Truax (USN), Air
Force Space and Missile Pioneers, http://www.peterson.af.mil/hqafspc/history/
Performance Plan (Peterson AFB, CO: Headquarters Air Force Space Command, 2003), 2.
of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and
Organization: Executive Summary (Washington, DC: The Commission, 11 January 2001), 18.
Space Commission is the term commonly used to refer to the Commission to Assess
United States National Security Space Management and Organization.
Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan, FY06 and Beyond (Colorado Springs, CO:
Headquarters Air Force Space Command/XPXP, 1 October 2003), 23.
2-2, Space Operations, 27 November 2001, 14.
1st Space Control Squadron tracks objects down to about 10 cm (softball size), which could
do extensive damage to a manned or unmanned spacecraft.
Force Space Command Strategic Master Plan, 3.
capabilities include, but are not limited to, space-based space surveillance (SBSS),
space-based radar (SBR), space-based infrared system (SBIRS), and transformational
Rumsfeld, US secretary of defense (address, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J.
McNair, Washington, DC, 31 January 2002).
Gen Lance W. Lord (BS, Otterbein College; MS, University of
North Dakota) is commander of Air Force Space Command, Peterson AFB, Colorado. He is
responsible for the development, acquisition, and operation of the Air Forces space
and missile systems. The general oversees a global network of satellite command and
control, communications, missile warning, and launch facilities and ensures the combat
readiness of Americas intercontinental ballistic missile force. He leads more than
39,700 space professionals who provide combat forces and capabilities to North American
Air and Space Defense Command and US Strategic Command.
Published in Air
& Space Power Journal
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