It’s beginning to look more and more like the dystopian future we’ve been promised by science fiction. Aside from the looming threat of artificial intelligence and all of the Frankensteinian genetic devilry being conducted in bioengineering laboratories, the world’s superpowers are finally beginning to bring warfare into space. Strange satellite activity and secret aerospace tests have been observed with increasingly regularity lately, and now the United States Air Force (USAF) is officially announcing a new position to head the US military’s space warfare command. From the sound of their accompanying press releases, we can expect the next war to be fought in orbit above our heads.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson released a statement announcing the USAF's pivot to space, equating it to similar policies the Air Force adopted in the past to achieve its current level of air superiority:
In short, we must develop space airmen who have the tools, training, and resources to fight when – not if – war extends into space. Just as the Air Force built the training ranges, schools, and programs to ensure air dominance after the Vietnam War, we now must determine how best to do this in space. We are currently investing in the hardware to ensure space superiority; in the near future we will need to grow the number of space airmen and the accompanying infrastructure much like we did for the combat Air Force 40 years ago.
Wilson says “the United States is dependent on space and our adversaries know it. We must organize and train forces to be able to prevail in any future conflict which could extend into space.” While many of us likely imagine scenes from Moonraker or Battlestar Galactica (reboot of course), the reality is that much of this warfare will likely be unmanned and conducted between satellites. Of course with rumors of new orbital weaponry being developed, who knows?
Part of the new preparations for space combat is the creation of a new position called the Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations. In a USAF press release announcing the new post, Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein says the Deputy Chief of Staff for Space Operations will enable space-based decisions to be made independently of other Air Force operations, ensuring short response times on the soon-to-be-battlefield that is space:
A new three-star deputy chief of staff for space … will increase decision making speed and help ensure freedom from attack and freedom to maneuver. The Air Force culture evolved to own the skies and is now best postured to lead space into this information age and prepare our people and systems to achieve space superiority so the warfighter has what’s required to win.
That post will be headed by be responsible for advocating for the Air Force’s space operations (and massive budget, no doubt) and will “meet the demands of a warfighting domain.” Most likely, that means a lot of cabinet level meetings in Washington. Ideally, it would mean a lot of gazing out of the viewscreen aboard an orbital battlecruiser while attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate...but we’re not there yet. Baby steps.