Space no longer ‘benign’ due to growing threats

By Association of the U.S. Army Association of the U.S. Army

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A March 5 Hot Topic at the Association of the U.S. Army took a closer look at space, the warfighting domain above land, sea and air that is increasingly crowded and filled with growing threats to the interests of the U.S. and its partners.

Just 90 days into the job as Army Space and Missile Defense Command commander, Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler said in a keynote address that he’s already faced space-based crises involving Iranian missiles fired into Iraq at U.S. troops and Russian satellite operations that threaten U.S. space assets.

“In my 32-plus years an air missile commander, I have never seen the Space and Missile Defense Command more relevant,” Karbler said. “We have got to be prepared globally for all threats that are out there.”

New tools are coming, like the next-generation interceptor, hypersonic missiles and directed energy weapons, said Karbler, who said he had the opportunity to shoot a 50-kilowatt laser to fry a drone with the help of a 27-year-old Army engineer who used an Xbox controller for targeting. The Soldier targeted the drone, and Karbler fired a two-second blast that melted the drone.

“It was pretty darn awesome,” he said, adding that directed energy weapons hold promise in other areas.

Industry can help the Army with technology leaps, suggesting faster, cheaper and more capable systems. Industry also can help cut the time it takes to move ahead on projects by doing some testing alongside the Army rather than separately. About 90 percent of testing now done separately by industry and the Army is duplicative, Karbler said.

“Why don’t you partner with us early on and trust us that we are not going to blackball you and kick you out of the marketplace if you fail the first time” he asked.

Also speaking at the event was Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, U.S. Space Command’s deputy commander, who said it is time to recognize that space “is not a benign environment anymore. … Space is now a warfighting domain.”

“We have militarized space, but it is because our adversaries have weaponized it and are behaving just like they do in other warfighting domains,” Dickinson said. More people would understand this if they could see what’s happening. “The lack of a visible threat makes some believe it doesn’t exist,” he said.

For more information on the Hot Topic, click here.