JUST IN: New Space Force Service Component Targets China Threat

By Meredith Roaten

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In response to China’s growing military capabilities, the U.S. Space Force will stand up its first service component outside of Space Command in Indo-Pacific Command, said a service official May 19.

Though making the service components official is still “pre-decisional,” China’s pacing threat necessitated the first service component in the Indo-Pacific region, said Lt. Gen. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief for operations, nuclear and cyber during a Defense Writers Group event.

As the military’s newest service, the Space Force wants to go slow and focus on combatant commands responsible for the threats identified in the National Defense Strategy, Saltzman said. 

“We're small and we're going to have to grow slowly, and we'll take the baby steps to get it right,” he said. “We won't just over expand too quickly.”

The next service components will be stood up in the European Command and then Central Command areas of responsibility, he said.

He did not say when to expect the service components but explained the service was working through administrative matters with the State Department and the Pentagon. For example, putting a service component in Europe requires balancing NATO concerns and alerting host nations.

“That's where our efforts are initially and then we'll expand to Cyber Command and some of the others as we grow,” he said.

The combatant commander for INDOPACOM will have a subordinate commander they can direct to be responsible for operational level integration of space capabilities, he explained. As space operations have grown in scope across the military, the capabilities need to be integrated at a regional level, he added.

“We just think space is so critical now that we need a seat at that table,” he said.

Saltzman first announced the Space Force was working on service components within combatant commands at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace event at the end of 201. Since then, the Space Force has gotten buy-in from the community and reached an understanding of the strategic implications, he said.

Meanwhile, the Space Force is also keeping an eye on military operations in Ukraine. Saltzman said “heavy reliance” on satellite communications and other space-based capabilities are playing out in Europe as Ukrainians fight off Russian forces invading the country. Saltzman characterized Russia as an “acute” threat, compared to China’s pacing threat.

In particular, commercial capabilities such as SpaceX’s satellite constellation StarLink, have highlighted the value of satellite constellation proliferation, he said.

“They're very hard to deny because it's such a widespread set of targets,” he said. “You can’t just jam one satellite and achieve that effect.”

The Space Force is working on its own space architecture that is more protected from attacks. Earlier this week, Gen. Jay Raymond, chief of space operations, told lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee that the fiscal year 2023 budget request will enable a missile warning and tracking force design that is more resilient to attacks.

Establishing what is normal space behavior will also be crucial to a safer space domain, Saltzman added. He pointed to Vice President Kamala Harris’ advocacy in that area as progress. The vice president in April announced a new U.S. commitment to stop destructive anti-satellite missile testing, which can create debris that threatens other satellites.

“We have a good solid community of the willing now, but it's a growing community that says we're going to share information on the nature of the domain,” he said. “I think that's kind of progress towards those responsible behaviors.”


Topics: Space

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