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28 Oct, 2020 22:00

US Space Force envisions protecting private sector assets, says threats from Russia & China necessitate WARFIGHTING stance

US Space Force envisions protecting private sector assets, says threats from Russia & China necessitate WARFIGHTING stance

Less than one year on from its creation, the US Space Force is contemplating a future in which it provides security for private sector investments between Earth and the Moon against a backdrop of conflict with Russia and China.

“Maybe not today or tomorrow or 10 years from now, but I do believe that if you look toward a space economy that's gonna be over $1 trillion between here and the Moon, I really believe there's going to be a role for enhanced security in that domain and a role of the Space Force to provide that stability across the domain,” General John Raymond said Tuesday in a National Defense University Foundation webcast.

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Raymond, the military's chief of space operations, noted that the Space Force aims to celebrate its first birthday on December 20 by swearing in a newly arrived astronaut on the International Space Station as a member of its force. For now, the force is focused on ensuring that the US maintains a competitive advantage in space and that all other branches of the military have access to those capabilities without disruption – as they have since the Gulf War.

“The challenge is, our adversaries have had a front-row seat on it,” Raymond said. “They are developing threats to deny us that advantage, so it's no longer to think of space as a benign domain and how do I integrate space in this benign domain. You have to treat it as a warfighting domain, and you have to look at what else space can do besides making the other domains more effective. We want to continue to do that, but we also want to develop independent options from the space domain, which we think can help amplify the deterrence message.”

Raymond added that “space underpins every bit of our national power,” providing capabilities that “fuel our American way of life and our American way of war. It is clear today that it's a warfighting domain – just like land, air and sea.”

Making such a statement five or six years ago in a public setting wouldn't have been allowed, Raymond said, because the US didn't want space to become a warfighting domain. “We still frankly don't today, but adversaries have a vote, and clearly Russia and China are developing capabilities . . . that would threaten our ability to access our space capabilities,” he said.

The Space Force aims to keep itself lean, with a headquarters staff of about 600 at the Pentagon, and rely on working with allies and private industry to move with the speed necessary to maintain its competitive advantages, Raymond said. For instance, the force just came to an agreement with Norway to put two hosted payloads on a Norwegian satellite, and it will have a payload going up on a Japanese GPS-augmentation satellite.

“We haven't had the partnerships in space . . . because in the past, we really didn't need to,” Raymond said. “It was a benign, peaceful domain, and there wasn't a threat. That's not the case today, and we're hard at work at developing those partnerships.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said last November that Washington saw space as a “theater of military operations,” and development of the US Space Force posed a threat to Russia. He said Russia opposed militarization of space, but steps by the US and NATO forced Moscow to strengthen its orbital group and space industry as a whole.

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