Should the U.S. make the U.S. Space Corp a fully functional branch of the U.S. Air Force

On July 12 2017 the U.S. House of Representatives passed the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to creat a U.S. Space Corps which will become a fully functional branch of the U.S. Air Force  This is an excellent sing that the military and congress are working to get more focus and resources for the domain of space.  This domain has been growing more contested in re cent years.  The fact that all sectors across Government are recognizing “we need to be poised and postured and budgets need to be in place to make the right changes so we (the Air Force) can protect the nation” says the director for space programs at the Air Force’s office of Assistant Secretary for acquisition Brig. Gen. Mark A. Baird.  The White House, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson along with House Tactical and Land Forces Subcommittee chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio must recognize that China and Russia’s militarization of space has become critical for the U.S. military with satellites used for navigation, protected communications, missile warning, surveillance, as well as, intelligence collection.  The U.S. is dependent on space therefore, we must organize and train forces to be able to prevail in any future conflict which could extend into space.

 

On December 17 2009 Siobbhan Gorman and Yochi J. Dreazen wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal titled “Insurgents hack U.S. drones.” In the article Gorman and Dreazen wrote that Iranian backed Shite militias have used a “$26 dollar off-the-shelf software program to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator Drones.”  This provides Shite militias with information that they can use to “evade or monitor U.S. military operations.”  These Shite militias intercept video feeds from Predator Droned by “taking advantage of an unprotected communications link” in the drones systems.  The software program is called “Sky Graber” and can be purchased online.  U.S. officials went on to say that “there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights.”  According to the WSJ article there is also evidence that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been hacked in Afghanistan too.  The U.S. Government has known about this vulnerability since the campaign in Bosnia in the 1990s.  Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman was quoted in the WSJ article saying that “The department constantly evaluates and seeks to improve both the performance as well as the security of various intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and platforms.”  Whitman went on to say “If and when we identify any shortfalls we obviously correct them as a continuous process of seeking both improved capabilities as well as improved security.”

 

Harsh Vasani a postgraduate research scholar at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations at Manipal city, India wrote in a January 2017 article for the diplomat.com that in April 2016 Chinese president Xi Jinping asked Chinese  scientists to help realize “China’s dream of becoming a global space giant.”  In open source literature on China’s space dreams the literature suggests that Chinese strategic thinkers see space “as the ultimate high ground” as well as the “key to military success on the terrestrial battlefield.”  In a report prepared for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated that the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) noted that in any conflict that China must deny its enemies the use of “strategic information.”  The report goes on to state that Chinese strategic thinkers surmise that the PLA must “develop capabilities to attack space systems.”  According to “some” Chinese analysts “The U.S. military relies upon space for 70 to 80 percent of its intelligence and 80 percent of its communications.”  In 2013 the PLA tested a Dong Neng-2 (DN-2) Anti-Satellite which jolted the United States.  Washington recognized that high-priority national security satellites positioned in geostationary orbit are within the reach of the PLA.  The response of the Pentagon was to declare publicly the commencement of a “space war center.”  The Department of Defense (DOD) received five billion dollars in space security spending with precious little to show for their efforts up to date.  The Air Force must learn from this five billion dollar mistake.

 

Russian Generals have made public statements concerning Russian forces fielding ASAT capabilities.  For example, the former Commander of space forces LT. Gen. Oleg Ostapenko has said that the Russian “S-500 anti-missile system is capable of hitting low-orbit satellites and space weapons.”  Also, in May 2016 Academy of Military Sciences professor Vadim Kozulin was quoted as saying that “Moscow is preparing for a conflict with the United States” in a discussion about “space kamikazes.”  These kamikaze satellites are known as Kosmos 2499 which are able to slide up next to American satellites and “destroy or disable them.”  The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) stated in a report to congress in 2015 that the Russian  leaders “openly assert that the Russian armed forces have ASAT weapons and conduct anti-satellite research.”  furthermore, not only does the Russian armed forces promote ASAT weapons, Moscow policymakers have also gotten in on the act of promoting  ASAT weapons.  According to Dave Majumdar a defense editor at The National Interest (TNI) wrote in his May 14, 2017 article that an unknown Russian official acknowledged that Russia is developing a “aircraft-launched missile capable of destroying low-earth orbit satellites.” Even more troubling, Russia is developing directed energy weapons.  These directed weapons technologies could blind or destroy sensitive space-based optical sensors.  The Russians are also developing airborne laser weapons to use against U.S. satellites.  In 2015 Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before congress about his concerns about a “growing thereat  to U.S. satellites from the capabilities that China and Russia are developing to deny the U.S. military access to its satellites in any future conflict.”

 

As i stated above in December 2009 Shite militias controlled by Iran used a “$26 off-the-shlef software program to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones.”  On July 19 2017 I asked Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a tweet about these intercepts “if the U.S. Space Corp would be able to stop these intercepts?”  Mr. Harrison assured me that “it is highly likely that we (U.S. Space Corps) will deploy our own cybersecurity teams” that would work “in tandem with the specialized units of other agencies.”  The U.S. Space Corps cybersecurity teams must fix, as well as, protect the unprotected communication links that the U.S. Predator drones have had since the Bosnia campaign in the 1990s.  As kids we are taught that “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.”  I have no doubt that Shia militias try, try again until they take control of one of the predator drones and use it aginist the U.S. military.

 

In conclusion, the statements by Lt. Gen. Oleg as well as professor Kozulin are worrisome to say the least, which is all the more reason to have a U.S. Space Corp.  Just like Moscow policy makers that promote ASAT weapons and research, U.S. policy makers must promote ASAT weapons and research to counter Kamikaze satellites, as well as, aircraft launched missiles that are capable of destroying satellites in low-earth orbit and direct energy weapons.  Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein was quoted in a January 2018 article in breakingdefence.com saying that “Every mission we perform in the United States is dependent on space.” The Chinese dubbed the first Gulf war the “first space war.”  A war in which the Chinese took notice of the United States dominance and use of space.  If my recollection is correct the Chinese Government destroyed one of its own defunct satellites in 2007 with its own ASAT weapon and have tested ASAT weapons since.  Lawmakers must realize that the Air Force and U.S. Space Corps is the way to keep the United States safe and from falling behind in the space of space dependence.

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