While the Air Force pulled its cyberspace headquarters out of Colorado Springs last year, the cyber mission here is only growing.
That’s what Maj. Gen. John Shaw, the deputy commander of Air Force Space Command, told a Broadmoor crowd last week during the region’s largest cyberspace symposium.
“Cyber and space will continue to be intertwined in the years to come,” said Shaw, a former commander of Peterson Air Force Base’s 21st Space Wing.
The Air Force joined its space and cyber operations in 2009, after pulling nuclear missiles out of Space Command’s responsibilities.
For nearly a decade, Space Command headquarters oversaw efforts to beef up cybersecurity as the service moved from local computing to the cloud for many functions.
The cyber mission, and 72 airmen and civilians, were moved to Air Combat Command in Langley, Va., last summer in a Trump administration move that aimed at improving the Air Force’s focus on increasing competition in space.
Shaw said Space Command, though, kept units at Schriever and Buckley Air Force bases in Colorado to protect its satellites and ground stations from cyberattacks.
Computer hacking is the cheapest weapon enemies could use to target U.S. satellites, a move that could hamstring efforts on the ground.
And Shaw says computer software is playing an ever-increasing role as the command works to field more sophisticated satellites, including one that could fix other spacecraft on orbit.
“As we look to do autonomous on-orbit servicing, that’s not going to be done by somebody with a joystick down on Earth,” he said.
Long before the cyber mission was pulled from Colorado Springs, Space Command was turning a wary eye skyward.
American rivals including Russia and China have fielded their own constellations of military satellites in a bid to mimic American tactics on the ground, and they have changed their war plans to target America’s satellites.
The military uses satellites for navigation, communications, targeting and intelligence. Every Army platoon heads to battle equipped with satellite gear.
“Space is a warfighting domain,” Shaw said.
Having space go from a place with few enemy threats to a contested potential battlefield is a change that Shaw compared to football adding the forward pass in the early 1900s. It changes everything, he said.
“And we want to be the greatest of all time,” he said.
The emphasis on satellites by America’s enemies is one factor that drove President Donald Trump to call for a separate service for space. Arguments over the new space branch are underway in Congress, but Shaw said his command is already working on a big change that will put satellite operators from the Army Navy and Air Force under a single headquarters: U.S. Space Command.
Shaw was mum on the Space Force proposal.
“We’ll learn more about that as the year goes on,” he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx