What Has Been Accomplished So Far in Space Force’s Five-Year Mission?

By Timothy Furnish Published on April 30, 2024

We have it on good authority that space is the final frontier. But it’s rapidly becoming a potential combat arena as well. Knowing that, five years ago President Donald Trump created the U.S. Space Force. The usual suspects mocked both him and it at the time, but then the Biden administration gave the new service its “full support.”

Add Space Force, then, to the list of things Trump got right.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, space has never been demilitarized. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, created by the (then) USSR, US, and UK, forbade sending nuclear weapons into space — but not weapons in general. And a new study shows that our major strategic adversaries are ramping up their space warfare abilities.

In projecting power outside earth’s atmosphere, Russia and China actually lead the US in some categories of warfighting, both related to operations in low-Earth orbit (LEO). We still have the advantage in electronic warfare and “space situational awareness.” (Basically, monitoring satellites and dangerous debris in space.) Russia is also rumored to be working on nuclear-powered satellites that could emit crippling electromagnetic pulses. These would shut down satellites or spacecraft, such as the American X-37B.

Giving Space Force Teeth

Thus, Space Force now has to plan for actual “dogfighting in space,” not just mundanely changing how our satellites are launched, or jamming enemy ones. Unfortunately, according to Air & Space Forces Magazine, “the Space Force does not currently follow a model that properly prepares Guardians for a real-world fight.”

The current branch commander, General Chance Saltzman, has said that making his charge ready to go to war is like “turning a Merchant Marine into the U.S. Navy.”

Whether we need to worry about Russians, Chinese, or Klingons, let’s seriously consider beefing up Space Force. It’s only prudent.

But this is easier said than done. Physics rears its unforgiving head. Space travel depends on chemical rockets, which are expensive and rather slow (although alternatives are in the works.)

Furthermore, the Space Force is the smallest branch of the military. It gets about $30 billion, or 3% to 5% of the FY 2024 $850 billion defense budget. And its personnel number only about 8,600, operating 77 space craft. (Not exactly Starfleet.)

Back in 2021, the Pentagon was on the verge of unveiling a supposedly powerful space weapon — but then balked. Speculation revolved around several possibilities — notably a laser or microwave weapon. The system was thrust back into the classified category, but odds are the US hasn’t abandoned it.

From the Earth to the Moon: Space Force’s Responsibility

In fact, most of what Space Force does, and spends its money on, is top secret. Considering the high tech involved, that should come as no surprise. But America, like Russia and China, is racing to exert influence, if not to achieve superiority, in three different domains: LEO, MEO and GEO.

Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) is the area 500-1000 miles above the planet. Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) goes out to 7,500 miles. And Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) refers to satellites at 22,000 miles distance, which enables them to stay fixed above one point. The latter require the most expensive satellites, but also provide the best communications (or other) coverage.

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General Saltzman has also said that Space Force will “look at new missions for the Space Force, like cislunar operations.” “Cislunar” means the space between the earth and the moon, about 240,000 miles away. Considering that America is the only nation to have landed men there, it should lead in navigating, and dominating, that region of space.

But China says it will put men on the moon by 2030. Let’s hope the Chinese have better luck than the Russians, whose unmanned lunar probe crashed into Earth’s natural satellite in 2023.

Yes, Space Force Is Needed

There are those who did not deem the creation of Space Force as a separate military branch to be wise — mainly because of the cost involved, and the belief that it could have functioned simply as a combatant command like US Special Operations Command, which mainly coordinates personnel from other branches.

But the arguments in favor of Space Force won out. And these went back long before Trump, to 1997, when the Air Force Chief of Staff at the time called for such. In sum, it was no longer feasible to view space as merely a secondary domain. Space, like Earth’s surface, oceans, and atmosphere, has become a zone of potential conflict, but with significantly different, and more deadly, aspects from any of the others. Therefore it requires a separate branch of the armed forces dedicated to defending American interests there.

Now the question is: Can that adequately be done by such a small force, with such a miniscule budget?

The US Space Force is not tasked with “protecting the planet from asteroids, or fighting aliens.” The former is NASA’s job, assuming it’s not too distracted by DEI folderol. And while Guardians and their leadership may officially disdain doing the latter, if ETs do show up armed to the teeth (or whatever eating organs they possesses) — who else are you gonna call? The Pentagon can claim all it wants that there’s no evidence of “extraterrestrial technology,” but an awful lot of Navy pilots would disagree.

So whether we need to worry about Russians, Chinese, or Klingons, let’s seriously consider beefing up Space Force. It’s only prudent.

 

Timothy Furnish holds a doctoral degree in Islamic, world and African history from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in theology from Concordia Seminary. He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth, a history professor, and occasional media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s War Stories: Fighting ISIS). He currently writes for and consults with The Stream on matters of international security.

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