SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, SC –
As Remotely Piloted Plane (RPA) firm shifts focus from counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism (COIN / CT) operations, it’s of paramount significance that the elephant be addressed in house: Past Line of Sight (BLOS) RPA operations dependencies on civilian Satellite tv for pc communication (SATCOM).
The RPA firm’s reliance on civil space-based communications has created a vital focus, our “Achilles’ heel,” which our adversaries attempt to exploit from shut quarters. It is no secret that the RPA firm’s success is immediately right down to its superiority within the aerospace business.
The compromise of one of many two domains corresponds to the inoperability of worldwide RPA operations.
Adversaries near their friends perceive this and are creating space-based weapons at an alarming charge to immediately fight the RPA firm’s dependence on civilian SATCOM. We can’t watch for loss-reducing upgrades from SATCOM to space-based programs. The RPA firm should now speed up change by means of training and mutual integration.
Earlier than we will deal with options to RPA SATCOM dependencies, we should first perceive the ever-growing hostile threats in house.
House and the RPA firm
The world has entered a brand new house age. The place as soon as international superpowers competed for exploration in an area race to the moon, they’re now racing in direction of house dominance and survivability for the following main battle.
Entry to house has develop into less expensive by each industrial and army means. Consequently, our shut opponents have shifted their army focus to house. China has beforehand deployed anti-satellite missiles, lasers, and jammers that may harm or degrade satellites in low earth orbit (LEO) and geosynchronous equatorial orbit (GEO).
Russia, alternatively, is actively coaching its house parts and utilizing new ASAT weapons. Non-kinetic and kinetic counter house weapons, together with jamming and our on-line world capabilities, directed vitality weapons, and in-orbit capabilities, are being developed to assault US and allied satellites.
Expertise like these foreshadow a frightening future for our RPA operations if we do not innovate.
Sadly, we have succumbed to the intoxicating consolation of complacency by counting on industrial SATCOM for practically 20 years of BLOS RPA operations. Now we have uncared for the necessity to put safer safeguards in place on our most essential line of communication, on which our enterprise relies upon.
Since 9/11, the Predator and Reaper platforms have relied on civilian SATCOM to take motion worldwide in opposition to opponents who would not have the means to successfully disrupt American army operations.
Lots of our enemies since 9/11 have been restricted to off-the-shelf industrial merchandise, lack main sources of funding, and lack a posh army group, finally limiting potential space-based results which are designed to problem the RPA’s SATCOM point of interest. This has given the American RPAs the luxurious of working within the undisputed airspace and attaining versatile air energy in help of each regional and nationwide objectives.
As an organization, the unprecedented downside of the endangered civilian SATCOM has challenged us to rethink the way in which we work. Unprecedented issues have to be tackled with unprecedented, exterior the field options. China and Russia have wasted no time making use of out-of-the-box options and are customizing particular non-kinetic and kinetic space-based weapons that focus on our platforms. The usage of these weapons is predicated on their observations of how America has used RPAs successfully in opposition to asymmetrical and unconventional techniques over the previous 20 years.
Our shut opponents have additionally engineered anti-access / space denial weapon programs (A2 / AD) that resemble the probability of a future standard army confrontation with Russia’s conquest of Crimea in 2014: asymmetrical and unconventional operations carried out by the enemy Info dominance is meant to shock and digital warfare.
These covert operations will finally preserve the RPA firm extra related than ever in future conflicts as a result of our adversaries know America is preventing in asymmetrical and unconventional environments and should rely closely on the RPA firm’s sustained ISR and dynamic focusing on for achievement.
This success was born from a choose few, unit-level individuals who labored immediately with the Predator at first of the Battle on Terror, and delivered progressive options in a well timed method whereas conducting operations. Due to this fact, it’s crucial that the RPA firm empower its Airmen to be taught and perceive looming space-based threats that might have an effect on operations with a purpose to drive innovation on the lowest degree: assault squadrons.
Empowerment begins with training and integration, particularly inside assault squadrons. There are a number of distance studying applications that Airmen in any respect ranges of the RPA firm can use to develop into aware of the operations and threats within the house sector.
The Nationwide Safety House Institute (NSSI) presents two fundamental programs: Introduction to House (ITS) and House 100 (SP 100). Aimed toward all service members with little to no publicity to house, ITS introduces college students to a variety of matters from house historical past to future programs. SP 100 enhances ITS by offering a fundamental understanding of the house programs obtainable to the army and the way these programs are used to help international joint army operations, together with the RPA firm.
One other group that provides correspondence programs is the 319th Fight Coaching Squadron (CTS), which is co-located with the NSSI. The RPA firm would profit most from taking the Introduction to Digital Warfare in House (SEW) course. SEW begins with a fundamental basis in digital warfare, which incorporates matters such because the electromagnetic spectrum, radio frequency communications (RF) and fundamental data of the house capabilities that help SEW.
Nonetheless, training shouldn’t be sufficient to unravel the SATCOM industrial downside. As the first consumer of house sources, the RPA firm wants the direct assist of the House Drive to help space-based RPA operations in future asymmetrical and unconventional conflicts with near-peer adversaries.
With this in thoughts, essentially the most logical resolution is to embed House Drive LNOs in every assault squadron to emphasise the synergy required to function in two domains on the identical time.
An instance of this mutual relationship is at the moment the established strategy of embedded Military Floor Liaison Officers (GLO) on the assault squadron degree. The aim of this integration can be to proceed to advertise a standard warfare fighter tradition wherein all assault squadrons might use House Drive LNOs for mission planning in opposition to opponents of equal rank. House Drive LNOs would additionally be capable to present a direct hyperlink to the Air Operation Facilities (AOC) and Mixed House Operations Heart (CSpOC) for speedy coordination within the occasion of an assault on our civilian SATCOM hyperlinks.
Calling again on to the operations facilities with House Drive personnel from somebody specifically educated in house sources shortens the kill chain’s response chain to issues with misplaced communications hyperlinks, permitting RPA operations to proceed with minimal mission degradation. As well as, they might even have the choice of reaching industrial SATCOM corporations within the occasion of a big interruption in communication between AOCs and the CSpOC, which might enable assault groups to stay versatile within the occasion of multi-domain conflicts.
Former Secretary of Protection James Mattis mentioned, “The supremacy of the American army shouldn’t be predetermined.”
Due to this fact, with a purpose to achieve success in future aggressive environments, the RPA firm can’t watch for progressive programs to be operational inside the subsequent 10 years.
To safe our place within the skies in the course of the Nice Energy Contest, we should first be certain that we’re educated concerning the threats in house in opposition to SATCOM for RPAs, and moreover work in direction of easy options on the most simple degree to drive collaboration and innovation throughout the pressure . Our lack of innovation immediately solely ensures the success of our opponents of tomorrow.
Particular because of Captain Christopher, Chief of Intelligence Weapons and Ways for the 25ATKG, for his steering, steering, and help in writing this text. His mentoring has immediately helped form the views and opinions offered on this paper.