Raymond: Space Force is moving from “very exquisite and very expensive satellites to a more diverse architecture”
WASHINGTON – Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have urged Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall and Chief of Space Operations, General John “Jay” Raymond, about the Space Force’s plans to acquire next-generation technologies and develop future workforce.
“Now that the Space Force is up and running, it is important to present a trained force with substantial capabilities to combatant commands,” SASC chairman Senator Jack Reed (DR.I.) said at a hearing on May 3. on the Department of the Air Force 2023 budget request.
“It is critical for the Space Force to design its combat objectives in the same way that the chief of naval operations designs our Navy fleets and the chief of the Air Force designs our air position,” Reed said. “I want to know your progress towards that goal.”
Raymond said “mission number one” is to modernize the missile warning space architecture to defend against the increasingly advanced hypersonic missiles and gliding vehicles developed by US adversaries.
He said the Space Force is invest in a mix of early warning and localization satellites in different orbits that will complement existing systems.
“And it’s vital that we make this transformation,” he said. “We are diversifying the architecture to reduce the threat in space to an attack that could occur,” she added. “We move from a handful of very exquisite and very expensive satellites, to a more diverse architecture to pursue both the emerging class of missiles and the threat that currently exists in space.”
A shift to “less exquisite with higher numbers allows us to adopt more of a business model that you might see commercial companies do. And so this is the transformation of our capabilities, this is the path we are following,” said Raymond. .
Another priority is tracking objects orbiting in space and identifying potential threats, Raymond said. “Space is becoming more congested, more contested and more competitive.”
Just a couple of years ago, US space command was tracking about 22,000 objects, he said. “We’re probably tracking nearly half of 40,000 objects today.” Access to space is now easier and more convenient, “which gives us opportunities and challenges”.
Kendall said one of the challenges is to dissuade countries like Russia from conducting missile tests like the one in question. November which destroyed an orbiting satellite and left a huge cloud of debris.
“So we have to get people to agree not to,” he said. Those destructive tests “put everything we have in space, in low Earth orbit, particularly at risk.”
It took note of the recent decision by the United States to implement a self-imposed ban on anti-satellite missile tests. The next step will be the development of rules on how to conduct “proximity operations”, for example when assistance vehicles approach satellites.
The National Space Council worked on this, Kendall said, “to try to gain a broader appreciation of the need to enable all of us to operate in space as a common good and to do so for the benefit of every nation.”
Prepare the future force
To help prepare its next generation of leaders, the Space Force is assigning new officers who graduate from the Air Force Academy to work in commercial companies and gain experience in the private sector, Raymond said.
Last year 118 graduates joined the Space Force. “We sent them to commercial companies and we said, go figure out how they do it,” Raymond said. The Space Force wants to be nimble and move fast, he said, “But I’ll tell you, it’s not like Amazon Prime where you can order it overnight. It will take some time to build, but that’s exactly where we’re headed.”
This year 101 cadets who graduate from the Air Force Academy will be in charge of the Space Force and will also receive assignments in the private sector.
Several senators have asked whether the Space Force should have its own National Space Guard as a backup component, an issue that is becoming more divisive. The White House said so in September he opposed the creation of a separate National Space Guard due to concerns about costs and red tape. But some lawmakers keep arguing for the standup of a National Space Guard to ensure that the critical skills needed for space operations are not lost.
According to a proposal the Department of Air Force presented to Congress on April 1, instead of having a dedicated reserve force, the Space Force would have a regular force on active duty with full-time and part-time members. The proposal advises against the establishment of a National Space Guard, in line with the position of the Biden administration.
Kendall said the Space Force needs the support now provided by more than 800 Air National Guard members in eight states. “We are open to discussing” the way forward, she said, noting that the administration is concerned that “we would create a lot of overhead associated with a new organization.”
“I think we can find a way to keep those people doing what they’re doing. They are very valuable. So we want to keep them around. They are important to us, “Kendall said.” We just have to find the right mechanism to do it. “