December 1, 2004

USAF General Stresses Importance of Space

JED -- "Space capabilities are no longer nice to have," said General Lance W. Lord. "They are essential"

In a speech on September 14 at the Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2004 in Washington, DC1 General Lance W. Lord, US Air Force (LJSAF), commander of the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) (Peterson AFB, CO) emphasized what he sees as the importance of space in modern warfare, saying, "You can't go to war and win without space."

General Lord is Commander is responsible for the development, acquisition, and operation of the USAF's space and missile systems. He oversees a global network of satellite command-and-control, communications, missile-warning, and launch facilities, as well as the US intercontinentalballistic-missile force. He leads a cadre of over 39,700 personnel who provide combat forces and capabilities to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the US Strategic Command.

In his speech, marking the 50th anniversary of the USAF's involvement in the space and missile arenas, General Lord stressed the need to establish and maintain space superiority, noting that all US forces depend on space for their land, air, and sea operations. All warfighters, he said, "benefit from the magic" of space - for tracking targets, the use of the Global Positioning System, and employing precision-guided munitions, etc.

The much- lauded Blue Force Trackers (BFTs), for instance, that was used by US forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he said, were run by the Joint Special Operations Command but are essentially space assets, noting that quick delivery of coordinates for the BFTs from space are critical to day-to-day operations in Iraq. "Space capabilities are no longer nice to have," the general said. "They are essential."

The general described the attack by Saddam Hussein's forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom on the US use of GPS by placing six GPS jammers around Baghdad. I-Ie recounted how the US had located the Jammers and destroyed them on March 22, 2004, when two B-I bombers dropped GPS-guided munitions on the jammers. He said he found it both "intellectually and operationally pleasing" that GPS- guided munitions had been used to eliminate the "counterspace attack" to the US use of the GPS constellation.

As another example, the general recounted the story of Capt. Keith Bittle, who recently returned from directly supr porting Operation Iraqi Freedom, during which time he spent three months deployed to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force on the Arabian peninsula. General Lord said that Capt. Bittle, through rapid dissemination of satellite data, was able to dispatch a team of US Marines to help engage an enemy force that vastly outnumbered a team of Army Special Forces soldiers. The actions of Capt. Bittle, combined with the Marines and close-air-support aircraft, he said, helped save the lives of 12 US soldiers.

But General Lord also warned that space superiority should not be taken for granted. "Space superiority," he said, "is not the Air Force's birthright, but it can be our destiny." I Ic said that space capabilities must be integrated from the beginning into military tactics and strategy - from the theater on down to the operational level. "You must deliberately plan for space superiory," he said. "It is not a given, and it cannot be an afterthought."

To this end, the general said the USAF must develop "space professionals" to provide the manpower and capabilities. But just developing space professionals is not enough, he said, adding that the Air Force "must develop the full spectrum of capabilities and effects." This will require the help of industry and the US Congress. "We need the help of our friends in the national defense industry," General Lord said.

He also noted that, in the past, space acquisition programs have not been without their troubles. Critics of these programs, he noted, have said the Air Force needs to fix the way it acquires space systems, steady the requirements process, and improve its ability to generate accurate cost estimates.

The general referred to the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) program, which has come under repeated fire for problems that have cropped up over the course of its long and expensive development. He said the USAF has adopted significant reforms over the past year, reforms that he believes will prevent a repeat of the problems the Air Force experienced with the SBlRS program. "There's no doubt in my mind," General Lord said. "We are recovering from the SBIRS hangover."

- Brendan P. Rivers

Copyright Horizon House Publications, Inc. Nov 2004