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Author: Subject: Space Warfare, all aspects

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[*] posted on 3-3-2018 at 06:16 PM

Lift-off: Satellite Launched Into Space on RAF Mission

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued March 01, 2018)

The Chief of the Air Staff today announced the RAF’s role in the launch and operation of a demonstrator satellite. Now in orbit, the Carbonite-2 offers sovereign, full-motion colour video from space for the RAF for the first time.

The RAF has been working with the MOD’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and UK industry on the programme to deliver high-quality imagery and 3D video footage from space. The first satellite of its kind, the Carbonite-2 has completed its initial checks and is now supplying detailed imagery and footage.

The ambitious programme could eventually see high-tech satellites beaming video directly into the cockpit of fighter jets, improving the situational awareness of UK pilots by giving them the very best imagery and information anywhere on Earth in real-time.

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier made the announcement at Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guildford, the company behind the technology, to mark the successful launch and operation of the satellite.

Speaking at the launch event, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier said: “It’s entirely fitting that we have launched this highly capable satellite in the centenary year of the Royal Air Force. We have always been at the leading edge of technology, constantly innovating and expanding our horizons. This satellite will not only expand further the RAF’s growing Air and Space capabilities, it will I hope also be an inspiration to those young people looking towards technology as a way to realise their potential.”

Welcoming the news, Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: “The success of this satellite shows we are looking far beyond the skies when it comes to defending our country. We live in an increasingly dangerous world and satellite technology like this give our Armed Forces the extra advantage of quick video surveillance to keep us safe from a range of future threats, whether that’s an airborne terror attack or a troop of tanks closing in on a foreign border. Investing millions into Britain’s most innovative companies is helping us propel the UK forward in the space domain.”

The Carbonite-2 will play a crucial role in the MOD’s understanding the potential for and shaping the RAF’s vision of an international constellation for the future. This could unlock new opportunities using a range of sensors and ground stations, which has the potential to support emerging crises and combat intensifying threats, giving the UK the opportunity to lead in the area with several close allies having already shown interest in the concept.

The MOD invested £4.5m into the programme with Surrey Satellite Technology just eight months ago, and the satellite was successfully launched from Sriharikhota in India. The 100kg spacecraft, roughly the size of an average household washing machine, carries an off-the-shelf telescope and HD video camera, both of which have been adapted for a space environment and integrated into a custom-built framework. The imaging system is designed to deliver high-resolution images and colour HD video clips with a swath width of 5km.

MOD’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte said: “MOD’s science community is one of the driving forces of the UK’s space revolution; and this is an excellent example of defence science and technology working with industry and the Royal Air Force to deliver affordable and pioneering space technology quickly for our Armed Forces.”

The historic moment comes as the RAF celebrates 100 years since its formation, and demonstrates how the service is not only commemorating its history but also celebrating current success and looking forward to inspire future generations. To maximise the benefit of the experience and build expertise the RAF has placed a secondee with SSTL.

As set out in the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the UK Space Agency is also working together with industry to capture a 10% share of the global space market.

The UK Space Agency’s Director of Growth, Catherine Mealing-Jones said: “Space has applications across every part of our economy and is a vital part of our national capability. British companies like SSTL are the best in the world at what they do, making them a fitting partner for the RAF.”

The MOD already has a world-leading role in satellite technology, with Skynet 5 delivering a resilient, sovereign capability until 2025, supporting secure communications for troops, command centres and cutting-edge unmanned vehicles. Beyond that, the MOD is fully committed to launching Skynet 6a and is looking to change defence structures to bring better operational coherence to activities for the future.

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[*] posted on 15-3-2018 at 12:28 PM

Trump touting ‘space force’ puts Air Force in awkward spot

By: Joe Gould   8 hours ago

President Donald Trump speaks at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif., on March 13, 2018. (Alex Gallardo/AP)

WASHINGTON — A day after U.S. President Donald Trump proposed the creation of a separate military ‘space force,’ top Air Force leaders who previously opposed such an idea downplayed the apparent disconnect.

Saying his National Security Strategy “recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump said at a Marine Corps base in San Diego, California, on Tuesday that he’s considering “a space force” that would be the equivalent of the Air Force, Army and Navy.

“You know, I was saying it the other day — because we are doing a tremendous amount of work in space — I said: ‘Maybe we need a new force,’ ” Trump said. “We’ll call it ‘Space Force.’ And I was not really serious. Then I said: ‘What a great idea.’ Maybe we’ll have to do that. That could happen. That could be the big breaking story.”

The remarks put the Air Force in an awkward spot. The White House, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Air Force leaders lobbied against the idea last year when it was proposed in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that a Space Corps be carved out of the Air Force.

Ultimately the bill passed with language requiring the Pentagon to order an independent study on the issue, due by the end of this year.

Opponents argue the measure would create unneeded bureaucracy, while proponents argue the Air Force’s lack of focus on its space mission has allowed Russia and China to pose a threat to America’s vital satellites. Two lead proponents — House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and ranking member Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. — have both vowed to continue to the fight.

Asked on Wednesday outside a House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing whether there is a disconnect within the administration and whether the Air Force is taking Trump’s remarks seriously, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said: “We’re taking it very seriously, and I’m looking forward to this conversation.

“I think the president stating openly that space is a war-fighting domain is exactly in line with what we’ve been thinking about, so this is really helpful to have a president and vice president really focused on space, like we are.”

At Wednesday’s hearing on the Air Force’s 2019 budget request, panel Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, reminded Goldfein and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson of their opposition and asked them to explain.

“I want to know your understanding of the current policy is, how you interpret the president’s remarks,” Granger said, asking that they “please reiterate your reasons for opposing this idea.”

Wilson directed lawmakers toward the 2019 defense budget request and left the part about her opposition unanswered.

“As the president said yesterday, the new National Defense Strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain,” Wilson said. “We appreciate the president and the vice president’s leadership on space. Nowhere is the president’s leadership more clear than the president’s budget.”

Later in the hearing, Wilson touted the service’s “bold move” for space: Its 2019 budget request includes an 18 percent increase for space across the five-year defense plan, versus the previous year’s request.

The Air Force plans to emphasize investments in situational awareness, command and control, and “the ability to create effects to protect our assets in orbit,” she said.

Goldfein said in the hearing that he’d been responsible for coordinating space assets for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just as he did under then-Gen. Mattis, at U.S. Central Command years ago.

“As the president stated openly, its a joint war-fighting domain; that’s where we’ve been focused,” Goldfein told the panel. “So I’m really looking forward to the conversation.”
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[*] posted on 15-3-2018 at 01:00 PM

Why industry wants the Pentagon to consider small satellites

By: Brandon Knapp   6 hours ago

The Kestrel Eye is a small, low-cost, visible-imagery satellite prototype designed to provide near-real-time images to the tactical-level ground Soldier. Kestrel Eye was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) as a payload aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 14, 2017 (Photo courtesy of SMDTC).

Industry leaders at the Satellite 2018 conference continued to tout small satellites, long an object of fascination in the space community, as a potential benefit to the Department of Defense.

Small satellites range in mass from a few kilograms pounds to half a metric ton. These mini satellites can be used for gathering intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities at a fraction of the cost of larger satellites that the government typically launches into orbit.

“The government has a couple of really strong reasons to go and use small launch and small satellites,” said Dan Hart, president and CEO of Virgin Orbit, which recently signed a contract to launch several smallsat payloads for the U.S. Air Force. “One is the economics, but the other is resilience.”

Virgin Orbit will launch a series of small satellites for the Air Force from their LauncherOne rocket in early 2019.

Resilience has been a key factor in the Pentagon’s approach to space technology, especially in recent years as adversaries such as Russia and China begin to act more aggressively in space.

DoD officials are increasingly viewing space as a potential battlefield and are designing spacecraft accordingly.

“If you have large centralized satellites, they’re vulnerable to attack if conflicts arise,” Hart said. “If you can put a capability across 50 satellites, you thoroughly complicate the adversaries’ targeting problem. If they only cost $10 million to $20 million to put up, instead of $1 billion, well, you can just replenish them.”

But some Defense Department officials are skeptical about Hart’s line of thinking. The Pentagon’s embrace of small satellites for military use has been limited. Small satellites’ size often limits the payloads they can carry and the amount of critical information they can gather. In October 2016 senior Air Force officials said they were uncertain about the future of the technology and that small satellites also lack the self-defense capabilities necessary to ward off an attack, leaving them cost-ineffective.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken an interest in small satellites as an avenue to prepare for a more militarized space environment. The agency is currently working on several programs aimed at developing small satellite technology such as miniaturized sensors and laser communication systems for relaying information back to ground.

Stephen Walker, the director of DARPA, has said the agency is looking at how to leverage industry partners working at low-Earth orbit and how the Pentagon buys smaller, cheaper satellite buses.
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[*] posted on 18-3-2018 at 04:22 PM

Build Missile Defense Space Sensors Now

Faced with an improving Russian threat, the United States should deploy a serious space sensor layer to provide persistent birth-to-death tracking of missiles, including against the kind that rip through the air at low altitudes 20 times the speed of sound (hypersonics).

By Rebeccah Heinrichs

on March 16, 2018 at 4:01 AM

Vladimir Putin recently showed off an animated film of Russia attacking the United States while bragging about Russia’s supposed new nuclear missile capabilities. Adding insult to injury, according to him, the new Russian missiles are so complex that the United States can’t defend against them.

Well, not quite. Last weekend Defense Secretary Jim Mattis clarified that the Russian capabilities are years away from being operational. Besides, Russia’s current arsenal can already reach our allies and the U.S. homeland, and it’s not hard to evade a defensive system that isn’t trained on your weapons in the first place. But that could be changing soon, at least to some degree, against some Russian missile threats. Step one is to deploy a serious space sensor layer to provide persistent birth-to-death tracking of missiles, including against the kind that rip through the air at low altitudes 20 times the speed of sound (hypersonics).

Although nerve-rackingly escalatory in the invective directed at the United States, Putin didn’t just start ordering his military to come up with these sophisticated missiles because the Trump administration focused on great power competition in its National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review. Rather, those reports are a response to the behaviors of Russia and China, who are both contesting the United States in various regions of the world. Part of that contest involves building missiles meant to hold at risk U.S. assets that, if targeted, would have strategic effects. The forthcoming Missile Defense Review (MDR) is the next report in the series. (Note the word “ballistic” has been dropped from the report’s name.) I have likened these reports to Russian nesting dolls, each one complementing the other and explaining in greater detail what the United States will do to successfully engage in great power competition.

The MDR ought to, and I expect it to if it remains true to the previous documents, outline how the United States is updating its missile defense policy and architecture to defend the United States and our allies and interests from increasingly complex missile threats from wherever they emanate.

Even after President George Bush rightfully withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002, U.S. missile defense policy has remained comparatively modest in its aspirations. Policymakers from both parties have eschewed plans to expand missile defense to include capabilities that could defend the United States and allies from Russian or Chinese missile attacks. The current missile defense architecture is designed to defend against simpler (but certainly not “simple”) ballistic missile attacks from rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

But U.S. military leaders have been not-so-quietly sounding the alarm about the threat to the U.S. homeland posed by Russian cruise missiles. Charles Jacoby, then in charge of Northern Command, warned congressional committees in 2014 of the vulnerability of the United States to the missiles Russia and China are building. The NORTHCOM commander who followed him, Bill Gortney, echoed his sentiments, and in 2015 Sandy Winnefeld, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave a speech outlining the threat of Russian cruise missiles to the United States.

If the United States is really going to “develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea” as stated in a Trump administration policy document, the United States must shore up weaknesses in the current sensor architecture. That also requires committing the resources necessary to deploy a space-based sensor constellation.

The current U.S. missile defense architecture relies on a combination of terrestrial and sea-based sensors (and a very limited space-based sensor layer) to cue defensive systems.

While impressive and effective against many of the ballistic missiles the United States is trained on, the threats emanating from North Korea and Iran, the missile defense systems are only as capable as their sensors. Ground and sea-based systems will always be limited by permanent problems like the curvature of the earth that make difficult persistent tracking from the birth of the missile until intercept.

The vantage point of space, looking down at the earth, deals with that problem handily, and will provide a complement — not a replacement — for the current sensors deployed around the globe. Talk is cheap and the solutions are often expensive, but not as expensive as not doing it. This is the message of Strategic Command’s Gen. John Hyten, who, days before Putin’s brag fest bluntly stated: “There are not enough ships, there are not enough islands in the Pacific that radars can answer all of your sensor questions.”

It’s also way past time to put to rest the notion that when it comes to missile defense, the United States should only worry about North Korea and Iran, or that to counter those “rogue” nations it merely requires a more limited type of defensive system.

Those two countries will continue to advance their missile programs in capability—adding more complex decoys and countermeasures—and quantity, closing the gap for all intents and purposes between the kind of systems needed to optimally discriminate decoys from countermeasures on ballistic missiles and to track the earth-hugging cruise missile variety. “As the countermeasures become more complex that the enemy’s using, you have to see what they’re doing earlier in flight,” Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Greaves recently noted. In sum, sensors from space will dramatically supercharge the current ballistic missile defense architecture to stay ahead of the increasing threat even from the rogue nations with smaller ballistic missile arsenals.

Those opposed to qualitatively improving the entire missile defense architecture to include a robust space sensor layer generally make three arguments making the system too robust would be:

- far too expensive;
- too technically difficult;
- and, worst of all, “destabilizing.”

But Gen. Hyten insists that space sensor technology is mature enough to become a reality, and will be far more cost effective than continuing to pepper the globe with terrestrial and sea-based sensors. That will be true, of course, as long as the Pentagon doesn’t “pile on” unreasonable requirements. Gen. Greaves agrees. “We’re not starting from scratch. We’re starting from capability that’s either existing or has developed to a point where there’s high confidence,” he said recently. “It’s based on a design that’s absolutely achievable, Technology Readiness Level Six.” (TL 6 means that the technology has a “fully functional prototype or representational model,” but has not been tested in space.)

If the United States sets out to build a missile defense architecture capable of defending against every missile in adversaries’ arsenals, it would indeed be cost-prohibitive. There are simply too many missiles worldwide. It’s also impossible to imagine a scenario in which the United States remained in a fortress posture and merely played catch with an onslaught of North Korean or Russian missiles. In a real-life scenario, the United States would use a mix of offensive and defensive capabilities, conventional and, perhaps, strategic, to provide optimal protection of key interests, while seeking to end the conflict as quickly as possible on terms most favorable to the United States.

The last criticism, that an improved system would be “destabilizing,” is especially interesting because it has the least evidence to support it. The United States does not build missile defense systems to intercept Russian missiles. Rather than being dissuaded from investing in expensive strategic missiles meant to hold at risk targets in the United States (or invaluable national security satellites) Russia appears to have been tempted to exploit those vulnerabilities. Remaining vulnerable to Russian strategic missiles has not resulted in a more stable environment; in fact, the opposite is true. It’s time the United States close that exploitable gap, and once a satellite constellation is in place, the United States could get even sportier and put a kill capability on those satellites, not only to provide the satellites with a means of self-defense, but also to provide a capability to shoot down threat missiles while they are still boosting.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry admonished those who wish to keep the missile defense system intentionally limited in nature. “It is foolish to try and pick and choose what aggression we will stand against and which we will let go unanswered,” he said. “It is not enough to advocate for a more robust cyber response to Russia’s attempts to meddle in our elections but waiver on our response to their renewed nuclear and territorial ambitions.” The chairman is precisely right. Now it’s up to the administration to make the same points just as clearly in the Missile Defense Review, and to provide the necessary funding.

Rebeccah Heinrich is an expert on missile defense and nuclear weapons affiliated with the Hudson Institute. Follower her on Twitter: @RLHeinrichs
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