The Space Force wants $340 million from Congress in fiscal 2024 to create more robust operational testing and training environments for guardians to hone their skills and readiness for high-end combat, the service’s top officer said Wednesday.
The request comes as the U.S. is facing growing threats to its space systems, including cyber warfare activities; electronic attack platforms; lasers designed to blind or damage satellite sensors; ground-launched missiles; and “space-to-space orbital engagement systems” — in other words, satellites that can attack other satellites.
The enhanced operational test and training infrastructure that the Space Force plans to invest in “will be the backbone of our readiness as we prepare for high-intensity fights. This infrastructure will allow guardians to execute realistic training against simulated adversaries to validate our tactics,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said at the McAleese and Associates annual Defense Programs Conference.
In September, Space Training and Readiness Command conducted its inaugural Black Skies exercise, which focused on electronic warfare. “Through these events, we are continuing continuously enhancing tactics and operational concepts to create a ready force for the emerging threats,” Saltzman said.
However, the training infrastructure still isn’t sufficient.
Saltzman told DefenseScoop that the Space Force is “still working through all the details” about where it will invest the $340 million.
“But just in general terms … [in the past] we thought of space as more of a benign environment. Our focus was on how do we get satellites to last as long as possible on orbit doing the missions that we need … It wasn’t prioritized in the same degree about thinking about a contested domain. Now, we are prioritizing that, obviously, but I don’t have the training facilities and infrastructure that allows us to do the kinds of simulations and training that we need” to fully prepare for that, he said.
“The simulators are built around procedural currency with the weapon systems, not necessarily interacting with a thinking adversary. So we want to enhance the simulators. We also recognize that range activities, which are so important to all of the other services to practice their skills to validate concepts to validate tactics — we don’t really have that either. So we’re expanding our capabilities to do constructive virtual training and ranges so we can conduct those kinds of events,” he added.
DefenseScoop asked Saltzman if guardians will be practicing for offensive as well as defensive operations.
“That’s a great question because, you know, I don’t think about it in those terms,” he said. “Operations can be offensive or defensive. And of course, we’re going to practice the full spectrum of operations so we can offer the secretary of defense and the president the full scope of independent options. That’s what’s required of us. But you know, we don’t talk about offensive F-35s and defensive F-35s [when it comes to Air Force fighter jets, for example] — it’s the operations they’re performing. And actually going through those war games and going through the exercises is where we develop those operational concepts.”