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Military Aerospace Technology

Leveraging Space

Army’s new Space Support Elements will integrate space operations and capabilities into division and brigade level plans and operations.

By Lieutenant Colonel Richard Dow

For more than four decades, the Army’s use of and dependence on space has been continuously growing, as have the corresponding vulnerabilities. At the beginning, limited military space capabilities resided exclusively at the national and strategic levels with space-based communications and imagery capabilities.

Today, however, the Army has embedded the world’s most sophisticated space capabilities throughout all echelons, including individual weapons platforms and foot soldiers. This decades-old effort has “normalized space” capabilities, in that space equipment has been fielded, trained, integrated and sustained throughout the force.

The Army’s next phase is to tactically “operationalize space” by successfully integrating all space capabilities and operations into planning, exercises, training and all phases of combat operations. The tactical operationalization of space begins with the introduction of Space Support Elements (SSE) into each of the Army’s reorganizing “modular” divisions (Unit of Employment x (UEx)).

Each tactical SSE will serve as the focal point for fully integrating space operations (planning, integration and coordination) and capabilities into division and brigade level plans and operations.

Focal Point

Over the past few years, the Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) has supported both the Combined Arms Center and the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) with the development of concepts for UExs and tactical space support. As a result of these doctrinal and conceptual efforts, TRADOC in 2003 approved a document setting forth the Army concept for space operations in support of the Objective Force. The pamphlet states:

“Army Space Support Element, composed of qualified space operations officers (FA40s), will be located throughout the Objective Force and will be the primary focal point for leveraging space capabilities.

“The SSE integrates and synchronizes space assets in support of operations; coordinates the enhanced access to joint, national, civil and commercial space systems; provides space input and recommendations to UE planning activities; and coordinates the protection of friendly space capabilities and the negation of enemy space capabilities. As a special staff element, the SSE maintains active communications and data links with several space-related organizations within the theater or Joint Operational Area.”

An SSE at a division/UEx level consists of four FA40 space operations officers and two MOS 31S NCOs. These six soldiers will serve in the force applications cell at each of the two tactical command posts and the plans cell of the main command post.

The SSE ensures the planning, integration and coordination of the space mission areas into UEx plans, orders and operations. The SSE:

• Provides the commander and staff expertise, experience and professional knowledge to ensure the space portion of the battlespace is fully understood.

• Provides assured access to all available space-based products and services to support current and future operations.

• Ensures full use of space-based capabilities for intelligence, focused surveillance, area reconnaissance, communications, early warning/battlespace characterization, position, velocity, navigation, time, Blue Force Tracking (BFT), combat identification and precision engagement, integrated tactical warning and attack assessment, environmental monitoring, and dynamic tasking and re-tasking of space platforms with direct downlinks to enhance the warfighting effectiveness of combatant commanders.

• Facilitates augmentation by specialized space forces when required and ensures reachback to all supporting space forces and organizations.

• Supports UEx operations in conjunction with joint, interagency and multinational organizations and non-governmental organizations across the full spectrum of operations.

Each SSE will receive a new commercial/government off-the-shelf-based system that has been under development, testing and experimentation since 1997 and has been combat-tested in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each Humvee-based unit is configured with one Second-Generation Anti-Jam Tactical UHF Radio for NATO (SATURN) communications suite (includes IRIDIUM, International Maritime Satellite and a commercial Internet protocol-based satellite communications terminal), four Space Operations System workstations and a tactical server

The Road Ahead

The Army Campaign Plan calls for each of the Army’s 10 active component divisions to reorganize by fiscal 2007. The 10 SSEs included in these units will comprise 40 space operations officers (27 percent of the current FA40 population) and 20 non-commissioned officers.

Given the current environment of the global war on terror and Army Chief of Staff General Peter Schoomaker’s decision to accelerate the pace of transformation, this effort will involve a significant impact in terms of Army space personnel and equipment. Future plans involve assigning one FA40 space operations officer at each brigade/unit of action, and an SSE at the corps/unit of employment (y) level. SMDC is working to address the emerging challenges of personnel and equipment resourcing, technical and procedural integration, doctrine development and the related assessment requirements implicit in this effort.

The 3rd ID has been redeployed to Iraq, and SSE will support the space needs of that division and subordinate units of action and brigade combat teams. Analytical efforts, led by SMDC with a focus on the 3rd ID’s SSE, will serve to provide the full doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities, insights, lessons and requirements needed to further the operationalization of space at the tactical level.

SMDC will continue to “institutionalize space” by making space a part of the way the Army doctrinally thinks and fights. This effort also includes building organizations to deal with space, providing space education and developing space literacy throughout the Army, growing a cadre of space professionals, publishing space doctrine and maintaining a vision and roadmap of how the Army can best exploit space now and in the future.

The activation of numerous tactical SSEs is occurring during the global war on terrorism, a war that will involve years of continuous operations in a stability and support operations environment. Essential to the successful operationalization of Army space by the SSEs will be the ability to refine the doctrinal requirements of how space supports the various threats against U.S. forces in this current environment, such as small arms attack on dismounted patrols, improvised explosive devices, man-portable air defense attacks against aircraft and infiltration of foreign fighters over borders.

The experiences of 3rd ID’s SSE in Iraq will set the conditions for follow-on SSE’s integration and operationalization, and will provide the necessary insights to fully develop the doctrine and techniques, tactics and procedures to ensure that SSEs will provide useful, relevant and focused space capability to tactical forces.

Lieutenant Colonel Rick Dow is an FA40 space operations officer assigned to the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, where he serves as the command lead for Space Support Element fielding.