The Space Force could also lead the development of small satellites—some the size of household microwave ovens—that could pursue a satellite’s attackers in the same way then-Major General Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers defended our heavy bombers from Japanese fighters over Western China and Southeast Asia. On any given day at Vandenberg Air Force Base, one Airman might track more than sixteen thousand satellites from 186 countries, as well as man-made objects and pieces of debris traveling at 17,500 miles per hour that come perilously close to tumbling into our big bus systems. Space operators of the future could reduce errors of a sort by revolutionizing space situational awareness—or even asteroid defense for that matter—with artificially intelligent applications that might warn of or predict catastrophic collisions.
AFTER ALMOST twenty-eight years of continuous combat since Desert Storm, the Air Force has proven air dominance and global mobility are its business—pure and simple. The service, however, is reconciling with the war-torn force it has today with the one it wants for tomorrow. If 9/11 has taught us anything, it is that the future of air warfare is inexorably unmanned. The Air Force has a fighter pilot gap, and yet wants to scale up fighter squadrons by 24 percent, from 316 to 386, between 2025 and 2030. What this might cost, says the GAO, is unknown. But the Navy’s growth plan offers a clue. Over the next thirty years, it wants to increase its fleet by 25 percent for $800 billion. Our Airmen should spend as much time as possible honing tactics and improving the readiness of their fighters, bombers and cargo aircraft. America’s space operators ought to be afforded the same kind of opportunity, with academies where they learn the history, heritage and importance of space. An organizational structure should also reflect the new service’s priorities and character, as well as a distinct career path that grooms officers and enlisted personnel to be the leaders of their unique domain.
China has a Strategic Support Force which amalgamates space, cyber and electronic warfare into one organization. Could Space Command follow this Chinese ‘Space Force’ model, and evolve painstakingly into something similar? Could General Raymond, a career space and missile officer, pull every player, from the public and private sectors, under one roof? Only time will tell. One thing is certain: America needs a Space Force now, and it is still up to Congress to amend Title 10, which lays out the roles and responsibilities of our Armed Forces. Let the Air Force focus on its tomorrow, so that perhaps one day the Space Force can set forth and protect America’s future. Congress has the authority to set the legislative schedule and make the laws that keep our nation safe from harm just as lawmakers of Hap Arnold’s day did. Given our adversaries’ advances over the last decade, hopefully, space protection—provided by the U.S. Space Force—will rise to the very top of its list.
William Giannetti is a defense contractor and an U.S. Air Force Reserve officer. The views in his article do not represent those of the U.S. Government or Air Force.