7 thoughts on “The Need For A Space Force”

  1. I served in Air Force Space Command from the mid 1980s through 1992. As long as it’s the “Air” Force, pilots will always be in command. Sure, some non-pilot generals have risen through the ranks but the top spot will always be a pilot. Perhaps that’s as it should be. However, in the never ending battle for budgets, space has long been the neglected stepchild in the Air Force. In that regard, separating into a new Space Force solely dedicated to space could be a good idea.
    As someone who has studies military history for decades, I do have some reservations, though. Would the new Space Force go its own way like the Air Force did when it became independent, neglecting the needs of the other services? Only time will tell.
    From a practical matter, the easiest things would be to consolidate the space-related facilities and personnel from the different services into the new organization. The US Navy is responsible for UHF satcom (UFO, MUOS) and the Army is responsible for wideband satcom (primarily WGS). There are a host of facilities that should be transferred, starting with Peterson and Schriever AFBs in Colorado along with Vandenberg AFB and Patrick AFB. Several smaller Air Force Stations (e.g. Cape Canaveral AFS, Cape Cod AFS, Clear AFS, etc. that are home to space facilities should also transfer, along with the Reagan Test Center at Kwaj. The Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN and the sites used to control GPS satellites should also go to the new service.
    Where things get difficult are with things like satellite communications terminals used by the different services. This has been a long-standing criticism – new satellites get developed and launched only to find the existing terminals only support legacy capabilities. From what I’ve read, they’ve been launching MUOS satellites for years but few if any of the UHF terminals can take advantage of its new capabilities. Should Space Force also be in charge of acquiring those terminals for the services and related items, such as GPS receivers that will able to use the new GPS Block III capabilities?

    1. Would the new Space Force go its own way like the Air Force did when it became independent, neglecting the needs of the other services?

      Hopefully not as much of what is done in space right now is to service the other branches.

  2. Larry J> Would the new Space Force go its own way like the Air Force did when it became independent, neglecting the needs of the other services?

    Are you thinking of something along the lines of the battle over the retirement or life extension of the A-10? The Army certainly lost out more than the Navy and Marine Corps from the formation of the Air Force, not being permitted to retain or procure any fixed wing combat aircraft. The Marines get to fly their own Forward Air Control aircraft, but the Army must rely on the USAF, right?

    (Off topic a bit, but I always chuckle when I hear USMC Aviation described as the Navy’s Army’s Air Force.)

    1. I replied to this yesterday but it disappeared. The frequent attempts to kill the A-10 was a contuation of something that started when the Air Force was created. Back then, they immediatedly focused almost all of their attention on strategic bombardment at the expense of tactical support to troops on the ground or the Navy. It was airpower for its own sake as opposed to comprehensive national defense. The only reason the Air Force developed the A-10 was that the Army was testing the Cheyenne attack helicopter. Rather than let the mission of ground support (and more importantly, the funding) go to the Army, they developed the A-10. Then they kept trying to kill it in favor of interdiction aircraft, thinking that the best way to help soldiers under fire is to hit a target hundreds of mikes away. As someone who served in the Army and Air Force, I find this line of thought utterly stupid.

      1. Actually, at the Operational level, they’re right–interdiction is far, far more effective than CAS in a major mechanized war, especially if you’re on the defensive, as most plans for Europe had us postured.

        Of course, there are also times when troops get into a position from which they do not have adequate fire support, or are too close to the enemy for artillery but yet far enough away for a gun run or a select few types of aerial munitions. In these cases, the troops in contact swear by CAS–after all, they owe it their lives.

        Less visible are the lives saved (or lost) because 3rd Guards Shock Army took 20% casualties to their fuelers and got held up 200 miles behind the lines for a solid week (or because they didn’t).

        Of course, in COIN, CAS is even more useful, because the ridiculous casualty rate for CAS planes drops to something negligible, while a lack of targets or intel renders interdiction largely moot beyond drone sniping.

        That’s the larger picture. The A-10 issue falls into it, but also has its own issues; its whole CONOPS was abandoned halfway through Desert Storm as a result of casualties, and it became just another bomb-and-Maverick platform, just like F-16s, for the rest of the war. A benign COIN environment in the more recent conflicts has allowed it to return to low-n-slow operations, but against anyone with SA-11s, it would be largely held in reserve.

        And that’s what USAF has to keep in mind, as they plan their force structure; does it make more sense to allocate dedicated CAS designs, only really useful in COIN situations, or to invest in improved sensors and munitions that can allow a plane designed for major wars–the kind that pose the greatest risks to the nation–to also defend troops in contact?

        Keep this in mind when considering the missions and requirements of the Space Force. Drawing boundary lines between what is best for one service, and what is best for all services, is going to be challenging, and the people in charge of it are probably going to get a number of things wrong the first time around. It’s probably more important to be flexible for the first few years, than to spend extra time getting things “just right”.

  3. Rand,

    I’m on my way this week to my graduating class’ 40th reunion at Annapolis. When I was there (…and I sure hope to Bog it’s still the case…), Mahan’s “The Influence of Sea Power Upon History” was required reading in (…if detailed memory serves…) a 2-semester course called “The History of Sea Power.” An excellent analogy!

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