Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Air Force Is Preparing To Wage War In Space
Editor’s Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.
The U.S. Air Force is preparing airmen for a future in which war is waged in space, with training on hardening satellites against anti-jamming technology to protecting spacecraft from incoming missiles.
The goal is to train the service members to combat new and evolving threats against the service's "vulnerable" space infrastructure, much of which dates to the Cold War, an official said.
The 527th Space Aggressor Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, is tasked with training service members to fight in a contested space environment. Historically, that has meant jamming Global Positioning System and satellite communications signals, making it so troops can't access the space assets they rely upon and forcing them to think of alternatives.
"There really is no such thing as a space war -- it's just war," said Lt. Col. Kyle Pumroy, chief of Space Force Structure Plans for the Space and Cyberspace Superiority Division of the Air Force's Directorate of Strategic Plans. Military.com sat down with Pumroy at the Pentagon before he was awarded the General Bernard Schriever Award by the National Space Club last month for his service and enhanced training techniques while leading the space aggressors in 2016.
"We're preparing for an age in which war extends into space because that's where the capabilities are going to be able to operate, in addition to on sea, under sea and in the air," Pumroy said.
This week, as Defense Department and industry officials meet at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the conversation about threats -- mainly from China and Russia -- is likely to not only include defensive space capabilities, but also offensive options, or as leaders have called them, "space control."
"The nature of the threat has changed," Pumroy said. "It drives the need for the space aggressors to also provide … a training avenue that prepares the joint warfighter for those types of threats, whether that be anti-satellite weapons launched to blow up satellites, or nefarious [weapons] in orbit. Those are the types of things we need to prepare the warfighter for now."
In 2015, Gen. John Hyten, then-head of Air Force Space Command who has since been promoted to commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and then-Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told "60 Minutes" that the U.S. has been looking for ways to launch countermeasures that can disrupt adversarial anti-satellite weapons without sending more debris into orbit. Space operators in recent years have already seen such attempts to disrupt U.S. signals.
"We'd want to know when they've launched that weapon, what the intended target is and then either try to move out of the way or [use] whatever capability we have to prevent [a collision]," Pumroy said.
And it's not simple. Moving a satellite, for example, expends fuel and resources, so a trade-off may be a degraded lifespan as a result, Pumroy explained.
U.S. Air Force photo
Having communications capabilities in space provides "us a tremendous operational advantage … which results in a reliance, which is OK, except some of those capabilities are vulnerable," Pumroy said.
To get ahead of such an attack, the U.S. "must invest in more survivable, resilient capabilities and train on how to fight against those threats for when [the high-end space attack] comes," he said.
Taking the Lead
In recent months, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has said he wants the service to be "the lead service for space."
"We have suffered some difficulties in acquiring space systems, historically," Pumroy said. "Some of that comes from potentially overlapping roles and responsibilities [that] can sometimes slow us down. If the Air Force is the lead service for space, we can just own it, and make more rapid decisions rather than leading by committee."
The service is working to create "more unity of command," he said.
The Air Force wants space operators to see high-end attacks as part of their normal training to be "ready for those threats, so if another country tries to attack those assets, they've seen this type of thing before, they defend, and the adversary loses," which also acts as a deterrent, Pumroy said.
"There are many experiments going on right now to help aid the development of what the right countermeasures and tactics are," he said.
The 527th is linked with Reserve's 26th Space Aggressor Squadron. Both fall under the 57th Adversary Tactics Group out of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
"That group owns the air aggressors, the air defense aggressors, the information aggressors and the space aggressors," said Pumroy, who commanded the 527th from 2014 to 2016.
The squadron has had many missions since 1942, but was redesignated for a space mission in 2000. The unit has about 35 people, including civilians and contractors. The Reserve squadron also has roughly 35 billets, Pumroy said, so of "70 or so people, it's a small group that provides these capabilities to the entire joint force."
Their training isn't just simulated at home station.
Members take temporary duty assignments where they're needed, Pumroy said, supporting various exercises such as Red Flag in Nevada, coastal drills with the Navy, and weeks-long exercises in the Pacific and European Command theaters.
Last year, the space aggressors supported their first ever Polish exercise during Anakonda 2016, replicating satellite communications and GPS jamming capabilities with more than 200 soldiers from the Army's 10th Special Forces Group prior to their deployment to Eastern Europe.
With Pumroy's leadership, the unit also "provided both SATCOM and GPS jamming training capabilities to the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group," marking another first for the unit as they "conducted GPS electronic warfare training against ships at sea." The efforts trained sailors for regional threats, while the carrier subsequently "executed hundreds of strikes against [the Islamic State] in Iraq and Syria," according to information provided to Military.com about the mission.
The training is designed to help troops identify when an adversary is trying to electronically attack or destroy technology that supports air, land or sea missions, Pumroy said. "How do I identify that, and recover from it?" he said.
In his current assignment, Pumroy is helping the Pentagon advance its space portfolio. He supports allocating about $6.7 billion in planned funding for the advancement of space systems as part of the Air Force's fiscal 2019 budget.
Pumroy cited the 2007 incident when China conducted an anti-satellite missile test, destroying one of its own weather satellites and creating more than 3,000 pieces of debris.
"You see in the news that [China] is still developing these capabilities and they're probably more advanced than they were in 2007," he said. "That's a concern when you look and say, 'We don't really train against that,' and you can't just say, 'We hope that never happens.'"
Another concern is random satellites in orbit that officials aren't sure what they're there for or what they're doing, Pumroy said.
These were things the squadron saw as the future, but they are quickly "becoming real," he said. "What I wanted to do is prepare the squadron to represent those threats, because that is our mission."
The service can afford to lose one or maybe a few remotely piloted aircraft such as an MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper "to electronic warfare ... [because] in the grand scheme of things, those things happen," Pumroy said. "Compare that to losing a satellite -- that is a game changer."
The article originally appeared on Military.com.
More from Military.com:
Decorated Vietnam vet presents Purple Heart and Bronze Star to family of slain UNC Charlotte shooting hero
Hailed as a hero for knocking a shooter off his feet in a UNC Charlotte classroom, Riley Howell was posthumously awarded two of the military's highest honors in his hometown of Waynesville, North Carolina this week.
Howell, 21, and classmate Ellis "Reed" Parlier, 19, died when a gunman opened fire in their classroom in the Kennedy building on April 30.
CAIRO (Reuters) - After losing territory, ISIS fighters are turning to guerrilla war — and the group's newspaper is telling them exactly how to do it.
In recent weeks, IS's al-Naba online newspaper has encouraged followers to adopt guerrilla tactics and published detailed instructions on how to carry out hit-and-run operations.
The group is using such tactics in places where it aims to expand beyond Iraq and Syria. While IS has tried this approach before, the guidelines make clear the group is adopting it as standard operating procedure.
A sprawling new survey says a ‘culture of resilience’ helped US military families weather housing woes for years
A new survey of thousands of military families released on Wednesday paints a negative picture of privatized military housing, to say the least.
The Military Family Advisory Network surveyed 15,901 adults at 160 locations around the country who are either currently living in privatized military housing, or had lived in privatized housing within the last three years. One of the report's primary takeaways can be summarized in two lines: "Most responses, 93 percent, came from residents living in housing managed by six companies. None of them had average satisfaction rates at or above neutral."
Those six companies are Lincoln Military Housing, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Lendlease/Winn, Corvias, and Michaels.
What's behind these responses? MFAN points to the "culture of resilience" found in the military community for why military families may be downplaying the severity of their situations, or putting up with subpar conditions.
"[Military] families will try to manage grim living conditions without complaint," MFAN says in its report. "The norm of managing through challenges, no matter their severity, is deeply established in military family life."
Judge approves negligence lawsuit against Air Force and Pentagon by victims of 2017 Sutherland Springs church massacre
The suit meets the criteria to fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows people to seek damages in certain cases if they can prove the U.S. Government was negligent, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Under most circumstances the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the government from lawsuits, but in this case U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez held that failure of the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense to log shooter Devin Kelley's history of mental health problems and violent behavior in an FBI database made them potentially liable.