The Air Force Is Getting a Space General
“We must organize and train forces to be able to prevail in any future conflict which could extend into space.”
The recent NROL-76 launch that put a spy satellite into orbit. Image: NASA
On Friday, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson officially created a new three-star general position in the Air Force for a Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations. The creation of this position was hinted at back in April and justified as a measure to better prepare the United States for space-based warfare.
Although the position was officially created on Friday, the Air Force has yet to name the officer that will take command of the Air Force's burgeoning space war sector. According to a press release, the Deputy Chief of Staff will oversee the new Space Operations directorate, which the Air Force anticipates will be operational by August.
"The United States is dependent on space and our adversaries know it," Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, said in the release. "We must organize and train forces to be able to prevail in any future conflict which could extend into space."
The Air Force already has a Space Command. According to the Air Force, the new directorate will "be the advocate for space operations" and work to consolidate the multiple space-based efforts of the Air Force.
This is just the latest in a series of shakeups in the US military establishment when it comes to space. The Pentagon's new National Space Defense Center is looking to be fully operational by 2018 and the Air Force is developing a Space Warfighting Construct to help its space operations become more "flexible, survivable and resilient."
The Air Force hopes this effort to consolidate its activities in space with the new directorate will improve response time and preparedness for terrestrial conflicts. Both China and Russia are bolstering their space warfare divisions as the orbital environment becomes increasingly crucial to military activities on Earth. This has prompted a number of US politicians to call for improved space warfare measures to meet this growing threat.
Still, some politicians feel that the new position hasn't gone far enough. Alabama Representative Mike Rogers recently spoke at the Space Symposium and said that he envisioned a separate Space Force within the Department of Defense.
"We have to acknowledge that the national security space organizational structure is broken, and we are at a time when space is contested like never before," Rogers said. "Space must be a priority and it can't be one if you jump out of bed in the morning thinking about fighters and bombers first."
Read More: How to Prevent Space War
While space warfare sounds pretty futuristic, an orbital war would likely look nothing like Star Wars. Since a large amount of orbital debris is created when anti-satellite missiles blow stuff up in orbit, this would make it impossible for any country to continue to use space, including the aggressor. Instead, a space war would likely be fought with hacks, not missiles.