Space is a "new warfighting domain," says Air Force

The U.S. Air Force is upping its capability to wage war in space, Air Force officials said this past week. They are working with lawmakers and private contractors to develop space-based technology in order to maneuver and attack in low-Earth orbit.
By Miriam Griffin | Nov 14, 2017
U.S. Air Force recruits might train to attack targets in low-Earth orbit in a not-too-distant future. Air Force officials have said that they are looking to space and seeking to secure the "freedom to attack and maneuver" in it.

"We are moving forward with modernization in space, so we're increasing our lethality in all of our areas of endeavor," Air Force Secretary Heather A. Wilson told reporters Thursday. "And we are shifting to space as a warfighting domain."

Members of Congress seem to agree. A section of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, the annual law that lays out the entire U.S. defense budget, classifies space as a potential "combat domain." And according to Wilson, Congress has proposed boosting funding for space-related military programs beyond the levels the Air Force initially requested.

They have the support of Defense Secretary James Mattis. Earlier this year, he called on Congress to pass the defense-spending legislation so that the Department of Defense can "invest in critical warfighting capabilities, including in space."

The Outer Space Treaty that the United States and Soviet Union signed in 1967 forbids putting nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction up in space, but there is no prohibition on the books against space-based conventional weapons. The U.S. military already coordinates defense-related space strategy, including potential space-fighting scenario planning, through the National Space Defense Center, which is based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

Wilson also announced that the Air Force gave a $100 million contract last week to the Space Enterprise Consortium. Under the contract, the firm will work on prototypes for "space-related technologies," ranging from software to launch equipment.



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