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WASHINGTON — Skills to fight off enemies in space will be essential in wars against the likes of China and Russia, military strategists warn.
That presumption has put Air Force Space Command in the spotlight.
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"We are at the war fighter table. We are not in the cheap seats anymore," said Maj. Gen. Joseph Guastella Jr., director of integrated air, space, cyberspace and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations at Air Force Space Command.
The Air Force is now staging "Space Flag" war rehearsals in virtual-reality simulations. Satellite technicians who operate communications, missile warning and navigation constellations are challenged to respond to enemy attempts to take down U.S systems. The next Space Flag is scheduled in April.
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Satellite operators typically are viewed as technical support to war commanders, but increasingly they will take center stage, Guastella said. At Air Force training exercises like Red Flag, space has been a sideshow. Officials are trying to change that.
The idea is to give them "realistic training," Guastella said. "Operators have to decide: Can I maneuver my satellite and stay on mission? Or do I need to do something more drastic, come off mission and survive? What other assets out there can help me?"
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Bomber and fighter pilots today can train in simulators that feel like real combat, there is no such thing for space. Current space simulators were designed for a "benign environment," he said. The Air Force has requested funds in the Pentagon's 2018 and 2019 budgets for systems that simulate contested space environments.
Separately, the Air Force conducts high-level strategic drills focused on space known as the Shriever War Games. These have taken place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for many years but are now taking on additional importance as they have become a venue to experiment with new technologies and concepts.
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The Shriever games give Space Command an opportunity...
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