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Space is ultimate high ground


Release Date: 5/27/2003

by Staff Sgt. A.J. Bosker Air Force Print News

5/27/2003 - WASHINGTON -- Space is the ultimate high ground and gives American forces a tremendous advantage on the battlefield, according to the Air Force's director of space operations and integration at the Pentagon.

"We must dominate space," said Maj. Gen. Judd Blaisdell, "because it would be very difficult to conduct a war without our space assets and the capabilities they provide."

For example, he said, satellites allow American forces to communicate globally, providing "reach-back" capability and performing real time command and control and battle management.

"They also give us the bandwidth needed to operate our unmanned aerial vehicles," the general said.

Space platforms also warn American forces of enemy missile launches, he said. The older systems, initially designed to detect strategic intercontinental ballistic missiles, were adapted in Operation Desert Storm to detect Iraqi Scud missile launches.

"We're now pushing to replace these with the new space-based infrared systems which would be able to more accurately detect the smaller tactical or theater ballistic missiles," he said. "(These systems) will also be able to relay this information to other assets enabling us to strike these launch platforms or (intercept the missiles in flight)."

The Air Force is also using space to enhance its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, Blaisdell explained. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, various ISR assets provided information to the combined air operations centers, allowing them to make rapid battlefield decisions, putting coalition forces inside the enemy's decision cycle.

Also during OIF, coalition aircraft dropped thousands of precision-guided munitions including 5,500 Global Positioning System-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions.

"GPS guidance enables JDAM to have an accuracy of four meters," he said. "When that is combined with the GPS navigational accuracy of the weapons platform, we can considerably minimize collateral damage."

GPS also provides accurate timing, besides navigation and position information.

"Accurate timing information was used as the basis for all air and space tasking orders," he said.

Space assets also enable the electronic distribution of the orders to the field, Blaisdell said.

"These communications satellites also played a big role enabling joint communications and the transfer of targeting information to air, land and sea forces," he said.

In the future, the general believes that the military's reliance on space, and the capabilities it provides, will only increase. Blue Force Tracker, a system in development, is designed to identify and track friendly air and ground forces, reducing fratricide incidents.

"This unparalleled knowledge of the battlefield will allow us to avoid collateral damage, wreak havoc on the enemy and (achieve) our objectives more quickly," Blaisdell said.

According to Blaisdell, space will not only help American forces win wars, but it may also help deter them.

"We will have a space-based radar system that will let us observe what's going on in critical parts of the world at any time," he said. "We will be able to track the moves of potential hostile countries and provide that information quickly and easily to the international community."

Regardless of what the future holds, Blaisdell said he believes the responsibility for taking advantage of space will still rest on the shoulders of talented men and women.

"Education and the continuing development of a space cadre is important because we've barely scratched the surface on the capabilities that space can provide," he said. "In order to dominate space, we need people who understand the importance of space and the capabilities that it can provide."

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