AUSA News: Space, Cyber, Army Triad Doubling Experimentation

By Laura Heckmann
Army's Space and Missile Defense Command launches a target for missile tests.

Army photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Army’s recently-established deterrence triad combining cyber, space and special operations forces was formed last summer as a modern approach to countering expanding threats, and the triad is looking to double its experimentation next year.

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual meeting and exposition Oct. 11, Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, commanding general of the Army’s Special Operations Command, said recent attacks in Israel have drawn comparisons to a “1973 moment,” while he sees the current climate more resembling “a 1939 moment.”

The challenge “very clearly laid out” in the National Defense Strategy is the threat of the People’s Republic of China, he said.

“The character of war is changing,” Braga said. “I would also say the nature of deterrence is changing.” The origins of the United States’ nuclear triad can be traced back to the 1960s, but the scale and scope of today’s threat has expanded, “and this is a different kind of triad,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general of the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command, said traditional missile defense has morphed into a discussion about “left of launch,” which refers to offensive capability to defeat a threat before it engages or launches. It’s the ability “to disrupt, delay, deceive, disintegrate adversary missile capability … somewhere before that missile, that aircraft, has taken off altogether,” he said.

The evolving threat now includes radars, rocket artillery, electronic warfare and counter space capability, he added.

“Well, you can imagine now with the triad that we have the capability and the capacity to really get after the left-of-launch capabilities,” he said.

Braga said to do that, the Army is “getting ready to double the amount of experimentation we did last year.”

Collectively, the triad conducted seven experiments last year, he said. Next year, ARSOF will conduct more than 14 to identify gaps in capabilities, equipment and tactics, techniques and procedures. “We're informing doctrine in our schoolhouse. We're doing educational exchanges out there. This is happening at the tactical to the strategic level,” he added.

As part of the expanded experimentation, a new Triad Experimentation Task Force was created and will be “moving out this year,” Braga said.

He also said they are “fully embedded” in the Army’s Project Convergence, as well as having participated last year in a two-star Special Operations Joint Task Force contingency supporting the Indo-Pacific Pacific Sentry Exercise.

“A lot of great lessons learned last year … with our international partners that contributed towards this, that actually provided some unique lessons learned as we integrated them into the Army Project Convergence,” he said.

Most recently, a SOF-only rotation at the National Training Center embedded elements of the First Space Brigade at the battalion level “as well as electronic warfare, cyber, [and] psychological operations at the battalion level,” Braga said.

Next year will be “double that,” he added. “Some of those are tech exchanges. Some of those are joint level exercises,” and some will be field training and tabletop exercises “as the partners grow and the opportunities grow to experiment.”

One concept being explored is an exercise aimed at left-of-launch capabilities with Space Command called the Missile Defeat Effects Coordinator, Karbler added.

Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commander of Army Cyber Command, said the experimentation approach needs to anticipate operating in a contested environment and will include scenarios such as examining what disconnected cyberspace operations look like.

“We're participating in a lot of exercises and … experimentation for those types of scenarios,” she said.

Braga said 89 different partners are working “on this crossing interagency,” and he foresees the triad being leveraged for irregular warfare options, flexible deterrents and flexible response options for the joint warfighter.

“We have to work together … experiment together, we're learning together,” he said. “And again, we're changing areas from the form and function of equipment to how we interoperate downrange.”

Karbler added that two years ago, mission analysis and exercises would never have considered space and cyber. “Now it’s automatic,” he said. Considering how to leverage triad capabilities is “part of our mission analysis.”

As the capabilities of the triad continue to mature, he said they plan to “exercise the heck of out of it.”

Braga said addressing the threats of the National Defense Strategy is “going to take all of us … because the scale, scope and size of those threats are too big for us to individually take on alone.”


Topics: Space, Special Operations

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