WASHINGTON In its new role overseeing the nation’s missile defense sensor network, the US Space Command plans to make more efficient use of these resources, officials said June 7.
Gordon White, Space Commands deputy head of global sensor management, said the recent realignment of responsibilities approved by President Biden in April is significant because it puts one command in charge of sensors that track missiles and also threats in space.
During a phone call with reporters, White and Colonel Mark Cobos, deputy commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, tried to clear up the confusion over last week’s announcement that Space Command is taking on new missile defense responsibilities. .
Space command, they stressed, is not in the business of responding to rocket attacks or shooting them down. This remains the responsibility of regional military commands if an attack occurs overseas, or of US Northern Command if the United States has been targeted.
What is changing is the supervision and management of sensors used to detect missile launches and track vehicles in flight.
“Space Convergence and Missile Defense”
Previously, the US Strategic Command managed land and sea radar systems used for missile defense, while the Space Command was responsible for missile warning satellites.
Under the new arrangement, Space Command is the overall sensor manager, allowing it to prioritize resources so they can also be used to track space debris and satellites of rival nations.
We are seeing a convergence between many aspects of missile defense and space missions, Cobos said.
Over the next few years and decades, DoD will deploy dozens of sensor satellites in low- to medium-Earth orbits to track hypersonic missiles, he said. As adversaries advance technology and develop more sophisticated weapons, the United States will need to better integrate data from its sensors to characterize these fast-moving vehicles.
We’re seeing a little change in the operating environment. I call it the evolution of warfare, Cobos said. US defense systems have caused a proliferation of missile technology that is becoming more advanced, more maneuverable.
White said Space Command will look for better integration and fuzed data for better threat characterization. This helps all theaters defend their areas.
Many of the sensors we use for space are the same as for missile defense and missile warning. A lot of that is coming together, which creates a unique harmony for the US Space Command commander to be able to oversee the planning for all of this, he said. This will guide a certain unit in how we approach those missions.
Sensors required for spatial domain awareness
The Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense (JFCC IMD), now reporting to Space Command, maintains an operations center at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado. Instead of having to route information through Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, it now sends it directly to the Space Commands Joint Operations Center at Peterson Space Force Base, near Schriever.
This helps harmonize operations, especially when rockets are flying in space, which is an area of responsibility of space commands, Cobos said.
Sensors at sea, on land and in space support missile defense, and theater commands manage them regionally. But with Space Command in charge, there will be big efficiencies in how these sensors are used when someone isn’t firing a missile at the United States, Cobos said. About 99.9 percent of the time they will do spatial domain awareness.
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