The US military is charting its role in space

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military’s mission in operating in space and using space capabilities is changing to accommodate the arrival of the U.S. Space Force.

Prior to the establishment of the Space Force in 2019, the Army’s space-related mission areas included satellite communications. intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and missile warning. All of these capabilities have been transferred to the Space Force in recent years.

But according to a new vision document released Tuesday, the agency is outlining new space-related missions: Integrating joint space capabilities and preventing or disrupting adversaries’ use of space for hostile purposes.

“The development of new space capability organizations and trained military professionals to develop effects for Army maneuver forces is critical to multi-domain operations,” the vision document states. “The rapid deployment and deployment of competitive space capabilities will erode the advantages that ensure US land dominance. To meet this challenge, the Army’s current and future space integration and interdiction capabilities must enable multi-domain operations for the Army.”

The short document, signed by the Army chief of staff, the secretary and Sgt., focuses on “the need to create and exploit space domain effects that enable successful Army operations,” according to an accompanying statement. “The vision also communicates the urgent need to invest more in space capabilities and formations.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George said in the statement that “Army space capabilities are designed to cooperate and operate alongside ground maneuver formations, providing the appropriate effects for commanders to maintain timing, tempo and synchronization”.

The Army has begun developing the interceptor capabilities and formations to undertake the mission, Army Space and Missile Defense Command spokeswoman Lira Frye said in a Jan. 8 email to Defense News.

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Interception capabilities include protecting forces from being seen and targeted by enemy anti-satellite communications, anti-ISR and combat navigation operations, according to the vision document.

Requires increased Army investment in position, navigation and timing capabilities, deep sensing, beyond-line-of-sight communications, force tracking, space environment monitoring, geospatial intelligence gathering, and domain awareness.

New formations set to assume responsibility for the interdiction mission are the Multidomain Task Forces (MDTF) and new space formations, Frye said.

In August 2023, SMD Commander Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, who retired from the service this month, said in a speech that the Army is deploying what it calls a Theater Strike Effect Team. “This theater-level Army space formation is an integral part of today’s battlefield,” he said. “It will allow us to leverage the experience of the management team and its staff to ensure success at every level, ensuring that all of our capabilities are used when and where they are best needed.”

The team “is poised to be a shining example of what the Army and SMDC do best, integrating right at the intersection between land and space domains.”

The Army has already established three MDTFs — two in the Pacific theater and one in Europe. Other MDTFs will be activated in the coming years.

According to the Army’s new space vision document, MDTFs will use cyber and electronic warfare capable Army space interdiction forces to disrupt enemy defenses. At the same time, theater strike effects teams would “synchronize and execute Army interdiction fires in support of theater targeting objectives.”

The agency will deploy next-generation tactical terminals that fuse data from multi-orbit satellite communications services and space-capable tactical ISR platforms. The Army will then be able to provide target information for long-range precision strikes and information for effective movement and maneuver, the vision document says.

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The Army also plans to layer space capabilities with high-altitude stratospheric balloons and long-endurance, fixed-wing aircraft.

Space formations are expected to be operational, scalable and mobile, the vision says, and will be “enhanced by flexible echelon command relationships.” The formations should be able to keep pace with ground combat formations and help protect those forces, he adds.

The Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence, along with other centers of excellence and combat training centers, will ensure the execution of the vision throughout the Army, the release said.

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.

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