Prepare for space war in “a matter of years” says US Air Force chief

Humans have proved extremely adept at killing each other on land, at sea and in the air. But thousands of year of slaughter confined to Earth’s atmosphere have grown a little stale, and the time has come to take military supremacy to space.

Prepare for space war in “a matter of years” says US Air Force chief

That’s according to the US Air Force’s chief of staff, General David L. Goldfein, who told an audience of active-duty air force personnel that it’s just a “matter of years” until American forces will be “fighting from space.” The comments came from a speech at the Air Force Association’s 34th annual Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Florida earlier this month.

Unsurprisingly, he argued that the Air Force would be the best-equipped service for this brave new frontier – presumably not just because they spend their working hours marginally closer to the edge’s of Earth’s atmosphere. “[It’s] time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.

“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years. And we are the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new contested domain. This is what the nation demands.”prepare_for_space_war_in_a_matter_of_years_says_us_air_force_chief_-_1

The word “from” is key in that sentence. This isn’t going to be battles in space, complete with low gravity gunplay, but weapons from space fired back down to Earth. Think something more along the lines of China’s exoatmospheric ballistic missile defence, which recently shot down a missile from 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.

In order to protect “contested environments”, the air force will need to master “multi-domain operations”, he explained, including land, sea, air, cyber and space. “I look forward to discussing how we can leverage new technology and new ways of networking multi-domain sensors and resilient communications to bring more lethality to the fight.”

That new technology and training don’t come cheap, as you might imagine. In fact, the US Air Force is requesting a massive $8.5 billion for space programs in the 2019 budget – $5.9 billion on research and development, and the rest on satellites and launch services. Over five years, this extends to $44.3 billion – 18% more than it estimated last year.

For comparison, NASA’s budget was recently upped to $19.5 billion per year – which is a lot, but still somewhat short of its own estimates of what it needs to make a decent hash of getting to Mars by 2030.

Images: Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff and Office of Naval Research, used under Creative Commons

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