The purpose of the US space force. What actually do they do?

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash

In 2018, The US announced that they were going to form a sixth branch of the military focused solely on space. This decision of the US faced persistent scepticism from the public as well as the government, with the critics contending that this branch of the military is overly costly and can lead to very dangerous escalations in space. While the organization is under scrutiny, the real mission of the US space force remains obscured. The real reasons of the US space force are:

  1. Defend the US satellite fleet
  2. Develop a unified space warfighting theory

The US Military’s Space Presence throughout History

The US space force is the direct descendant of the Air Force Space Command which was established in 1982. The AirForce Space Command sought to expand America’s advantage in space during the Cold War with the help of launching advanced military satellites in space. Space Command had a major role in the war by establishing the Global Positioning System (GPS) due to which America was able to identify and detect missile launches and monitor military movements around the world. Moreover, during the cold war, improved satellite technology contributed to the decisive coalition victory in the Gulf war by providing surveillance of enemy forces as well as enabling precision missiles and airstrikes. Space gained even more attention as a potential conflict domain as states like China and Russia developed weapons capable of destroying American satellites and began to deploy their own space satellites.

Some military personnel and officials wanted to elevate the space command to its own military branch which ensured more resources and support for the American space efforts in order to meet the increasing challenges from rivals. This effort received resistance from the Air Force due to both bureaucratic and doctrinal reasons. The officials in Air Force feared the loss of their resources and influence that the creation of an independent space branch would entail. The Air Force contended that Space Command should be kept until space warfighting doctrine had progressed far enough to justify the creation of a new branch. The Trump administration, on the other hand, backed the campaign for a separate branch and promptly presented Congress with legislation to that effect, which was eventually enacted in late 2019 after some bickering. The nucleus of the new organisation was formed by the transfer of 16,000 people from Space Command to the new branch.

Protecting and Expanding American Space Assets

The main mission of the US Space Force is to maintain, protect and expand the fleet of advanced military satellites as directed by Congress. The importance of these advanced satellites can hardly be overstated as they allow instantaneous communication across battle zones, identify enemy positions and movements, track the weather patterns and guide navigational systems. These advantages have bolstered the US position as the leading military power in the world as the US satellite fleet outnumbers every other country out there.

Space-based intelligence and technology will be funnelled through the space force to the rest of the military. They make sure that the battlefield commanders have real-time access to satellite reconnaissance. The space force is designed to be much more than only a maintenance unit but however, multiple threats have emerged in recent years that require a substantial updating of American space presence. Satellites are extremely vulnerable and weak to outside attacks and this could turn America’s military operation back on themselves. Other nations, including china, have homed in on this vulnerability by building a wide range of arsenal of anti-satellite missiles and technologies including cyber-attacks. The Space Force’s most urgent mission is to find some ways to defend their satellites in order to maintain America’s preeminence in space.

Developing a Theory of Space Power

The Space Force has been entrusted with establishing a coherent doctrine of space warfighting in addition to assisting Earth-based military action and safeguarding American assets in space. The Space Force will essentially try to explain how space fits into the US grand strategy and how the Space Force will contribute to national security. Military efforts in the early twentieth century to construct a doctrine of airpower that may contribute to war success are the most recent comparable. As previously stated, many have questioned the idea of forming a new military force without first formulating a viable warfighting ideology. The Air Force and the Marine Corps, for example, only gained organisational freedom after demonstrating their usefulness on the battlefield. These opponents fear that by pushing forward without a sound theoretical or doctrinal foundation, the US is courting a bureaucratic disaster that could stymie space operations. Within the Pentagon and the federal government, supporters of the Space Force argue that there is no time to spend in the quest of military superiority in space. The United States may concentrate space resources and experience in a single institution that is not too dominated by the thinking of one service, such as the Air Force, by speedily developing a sixth branch of the military dedicated solely to space. While the main military organisation for space was Space Command, other services had their own space units, resulting in a confusing patchwork of diverse space initiatives. Advocates say that combining theoretical research and development into a single branch will speed up theoretical research and development while also ensuring the required bureaucratic independence for American space activities.

Conclusion

Within the huge American national security system, the Space Force confronts an unclear route to establishing itself as an effective warfighting organisation. It has significantly fewer resources, bureaucratic clout, and even doctrinal justification than any other branch of the military at the moment. Congress and the Pentagon have given the agency only tepid backing, and its very existence is the consequence of a bureaucratic and legislative compromise. While retaining the satellite fleet that the Pentagon has grown to rely on, the Space Force will have to work swiftly to build successful doctrines for a rapidly developing military domain. As enemies develop and technology adapt, space has become a critical arena for US national security. It remains to be seen if the United States Space Force will be the dominating actor in space.

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