Space Force doctrine expresses desire for 'space supremacy' and orbital weapons systems

Jack Murphy
August 11, 2020 - 11:02 am
Space Force

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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New Space Force doctrine lays out a few of the nuances and challenges that America's newest branch of service will be charged with. For starters, they may take the lead in creating windows of space supremacy during a war with a "peer adversary."

"Space supremacy implies that one side could conduct operations with relative impunity while denying space domain freedom of action to an adversary," the newly published space capstone publication called Spacepower says, going on to state, "Space supremacy is not always desirable, or attainable against a peer adversary, and should not be the unconditional goal of military spacepower."

The publication explains that completely cutting off space-based communication during war could prevent diplomats on both sides from negotiating a cessation of hostilities, for example, which would be undesirable. Presumably, creating outright space supremacy would be resource-intensive to the point that it would be prohibitive during a drawn-out global conflict.

Another core responsibility of the Space Force will be to preserve freedom of action for the United States in space. This is similar in concept to innocent passage on the high seas and other international norms that allow civilian ships to make use of maritime trade routes unhindered. Like the Navy does on the ocean, the Space Force will also ensure that America retains, "unfettered access to and freedom to operate in space is a vital national interest," the capstone publication says. The Space Force will also be charged with both enabling ground, sea, and air operations as well as acting independently in space to create strategic effects.

But what would the Space Force do independently that creates strategic effects? The document explains that "the ability to legally transcend the most remote and protected national boundaries provides a unique opportunity to enable lethal and non-lethal effects against terrestrial targets."

In other words, using orbital based weapons platforms to strike targets on the ground is an unprecedented capability. Instead of using Predator UAVs and hellfire missiles, satellites in orbit would fire lasers or drop payloads that would be caught in atmosphere and take advantage of the earth's gravity to drop them on targets. Kinetic orbital strikes, so-called "rods from god" has been a concept on the drawing board since the Cold War.

The document speaks directly to the coercive nature of space-based military power. When one dominates the ultimate high ground, "the specter of global vigilance incentivizes adversaries to adapt their behavior and expend time, energy, and resources to mask or obscure sensitive events," the Spacepower document reads.

It appears that Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program just got a reboot.

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Reach Jack Murphy: jack@connectingvets.com or @JackMurphyRGR.