SPACE SYMPOSIUM NEWS: Space Operations Command Embracing Artificial Intelligence

By Josh Luckenbaugh

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — To provide the necessary space-based capabilities for future missions, the Space Force “must be a digital force,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting, the commander of Space Operations Command, said April 20. In particular, the command is looking for ways to introduce artificial intelligence and machine learning into its operations.

Given the limited size of the Space Force compared to its sister services, it must have robust digital capabilities “so that we can punch above our weight and support the rest of the Joint Force and our fellow citizens the way we need to,” Whiting said during a keynote address at the Space Foundation’s Space Symposium.

Whiting credited Brig. Gen. Kyle Paul of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who is serving as Space Operations Command's Deputy Command General, Transformation, with “driving” the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning into Space Force operations.

“We are at a knee in the curve where all of us now have practical applications that we can leverage from AI/ML to improve how we work and make us more efficient, and I think we have to be finding ways to leverage those tools inside of all of our mission areas and certainly across our enterprise as well,” Whiting said during a media briefing at the symposium.

Leveraging digital tools such as AI and machine learning are essential for Space Force guardians, who don’t physically conduct missions in their domain of operations like warfighters in the other services. But like its sister services, the Space Force must be able to unify its capabilities and field a “combat-credible” force for future missions, Whiting said.

The Space Force is responsible for a lot of “individual mission areas,” such as satellite communications, precision navigation and timing and space domain awareness, but instead of keeping each of these capabilities stove-piped, “we have to fight together as a force package,” he said.

“Now when I say that, that might sound odd coming from a space operator, but it shouldn't be,” he said. “This is how every other military service operates.”

Whiting brought up the example of a Navy carrier strike group, which is “built around a capital asset — the aircraft carrier — that can deploy aircraft to conduct offensive and defensive missions” and includes other ships, submarines and joint support “to conduct intel, command and control, cyber [and] bring in the joint fires.”

“That's what we have to do now in the space community,” he continued. “Fight across all of the stovepipes we used to have … to bring together command and control, intelligence, offense, defense, cyber, joint fires, to ensure that our fellow Joint Force members have access to those space capabilities that we need to provide to all levels of conflict while defending our assets to make sure that we can continue to provide those effects.”

In March, Space Operations Command activated a new unit called Delta 15 at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, which will “provide service space battle management abilities, mission-ready crew forces, operational training, and simulation,” according to a Space Force release.

In partnership with U.S. Space Command, Delta 15 will serve as the Space Force’s core component of the National Space Defense Center, Whiting said. The center “was originally built as a joint organization, and now we're putting the service command-and-control element at the core of it, and it's a very important evolution.”


Topics: Space

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