Space superiority now and in the future

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erin Leon
  • Space Operations Command
In the face of a growing number of threats, the Air and Space Forces need to consider how to maintain Air and Space Superiority with limited manning, capacity and budget. 

U.S. Space Force Maj. Gen. Douglas Schiess, Combined Force Space Component Command commander and Space Operations Command vice commander, had an opportunity to address this challenge with General Mark Kelly, Air Combat Command commander, and Gen. James Hecker, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa Command commander, during a panel on Air and Space Superiority at an Air and Space Force Association symposium in Washington D.C. Sept. 12, 2023.

“We have guardians right now working on operations floors in operations centers doing the mission each and every day,” said Schiess. “They are making sure our forces are safe and secure, and that our nation and our allies continue to have space superiority.”

With limited manning and capacity, space superiority is not a given. The path forward for gaining and maintaining space superiority has to be deliberate.

“We must be intel focused, cyber secure, combat credible and deliberate about cultivating partnerships,” Schiess said.

This sentiment is reflective of the Secretary of the Air Force’s first operational imperative – Defining Resilient and Effective Space Order of Battle and Architectures.

“The simple fact is that the U.S. cannot project power successfully unless our space-based services are resilient enough to endure while under attack,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said during an Air and Space Force Association Warfare Symposium. “Equally true, our terrestrial forces, Joint and Combined, cannot survive and perform their missions if our adversary’s space-based operational support systems, especially targeting systems, are allowed to operate with impunity.”

To meet the demand for space-based capabilities, the Space Force has turned to commercial partners for support.

“We have a commercial integration cell with ten commercial partners who have the clearance and ability to sit on the operations floor,” said Schiess. “We have to continue to build and maintain great relationships with the commercial sector and work through how we can pivot quickly and provide commercial augmentation of resources for warfighters.”

In addition to commercial partners, the Space Force is also working closely with allied nations.

“We can’t do this alone,” said Schiess. “The space domain is huge and we have to make sure that we’re not duplicating efforts, but that we’re working together to ensure space superiority on a day to day basis.”

In addition to developing resilient space architectures and partnering with commercial and allied nation space organizations, Schiess emphasized the importance of trusting Guardians.

“I look to our NCOs and our captains and I rely on them to tell me what they need to maintain space superiority,” said Schiess. “It’s that competitive endurance that ensures everyday our adversary wakes up and says today is not the day to challenge the U.S. in space.”