Spacelift Washington: The Future of Space: Part One: Air Force Space Leaders Prepare for Weapons in Space

Spacelift Washington
Spacelift Washingon Archive

Senior U.S. Air Force leaders have begun the process of planning to implement the recommendations of the National Security Space Management report, and have set April as their deadline for a structured plan, according to USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan. But Ryan and other senior Air Force leaders warned last week that part of the increasing attention to Space Control will include the likelihood of bringing weapons platforms into low earth orbit. "Space capabilities in the near future will be about the security of the nation," Ryan told an Air Force-led aerospace power symposium last week in Alexandria, Virginia. "Space will be, at some time in the future, part of the battlefield. But for the foreseeable future we will be orbitally bound," Ryan said. "We cannot weaponize space as yet, but eventually someone will try to take us on in space," he added. The service-and the nation’s national security structure -must begin now to plan for the day when space warfare will become a reality facing U.S. forces. "We don’t want to have a Pearl Harbor in space," Ryan said.

The theme was echoed by U.S. Space Command CINC Gen. Ralph ‘Ed’ Eberhart. Eberhart bluntly told the symposium that weapons in space would be inevitable, albeit regrettable. "Space superiority will become increasingly important," Eberhart said last Thursday. "We had better start planning for force application (in space)," he predicted. "We have to plan for bringing weapons in space. ..we may hope that will never be needed." But Eberhart also sounded the theme of a growing imbalance in the use and reliance upon space assets as countered by their vulnerability. "We’re not using space properly," he said. "We can’t just think of space as a higher hill. ..commercial interests are involved in space. We must protect the commercial space assets just like the navies sailed to protect sea commerce."

New Space Control plans and new doctrines are expected to emerge from the recent NSSM report, also called the Rumsfeld report after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who headed the commission. Air Force Major Gen. Brian Arnold, Director of Space and Nuclear Deterrence for the Office of the Air Force Secretary (who has yet to be named by the Bush administration) said that a plan would be announced by the end of April to accelerate the integration of space within the Air Force as recommended by the report. "By a Space Corps, I think the report was urging us to create a group of space-trained professionals within the Air Force," Arnold said last week. But some were skeptical the winged service would be able to fully embrace a new space emphasis. Said one civilian contractor at the Alexandria symposium Thursday: "If they (the USAF) don’t get Rumsfeld’s message, space will become a competitor to us, and we’ll be as the Army was in 1945."

How does Arnold see the Air Force and the National Security Council planning for space policy? And where does the civil sector fit in? More in our next column.

Articles in the Spacelift Washington "The Future of Space" series:

° Part One: Air Force Space Leaders Prepare for Weapons in Space
° Part Two: The Future of Space: President's Space Advisory Board to be staffed with outside experts
° Part Three: Commercial Space cooling trend continues
° Part Four: A Thriving Commercial Space Now Key to All Sectors


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