WASHINGTON — If the first year of the U.S. Space Force’s existence was focused inwardly on organizing the new service, its second year will center on building relationships — not only with the other services, but with international partners.
“The first year we built the Space Force. This year we are focused on integrating that force. And one of the key folks that we integrate with is obviously our allied partners,” said Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond during a Feb. 3 media call.
Recently returned from a stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Raymond said the Space Force had elevated American leadership in space among global partners and allies.
While in Germany, Raymond visited U.S. space guardians serving there and met with NATO’s Supreme Allied Command Europe commander, Gen. Tod Wolters of U.S. European Command, and with Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa.
Raymond also went to the new Space Centre at NATO’s Allied Air Command headquarters in Ramstein. NATO has followed quickly on the United States’ heels in elevating the profile of space operations, declaring space an operational domain in November 2019.
“The last time I went to Europe was over a year ago, I think it was September-ish of 2019,” recalled Raymond. “We had just stood up U.S. Space Command, we were just about to stand up the Space Force, and I briefed the NATO military committee on space. And shortly thereafter — and not in response to my speech — but shortly thereafter, they declared space an operational domain.”
The new office will support NATO operations and increase space domain awareness among allies.
A major theme in conversations between the Space Force and international allies will be establishing norms of behavior in space.
“I always get asked, ‘What do you want your successors to have, technology-wise?’ I answer that question, ‘First, I want my successors to have norms of behavior,’” said Raymond.
The general noted that progress has already been made on that front.
“We have furthered the conversation with our allied partners on norms of behavior,” he added. “For the last year, and even before that, but this last year we have really sharpened the discussion on norms of behavior with our allies in Schriever Wargame, for example, or our Combined Space Operations initiative that we have.”
Under the Combined Space Operations initiative, allies cooperate and share space domain awareness data. In 2020, France and Germany joined the initiative, which already included Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Space Command has also added new agreements under Operation Olympic Defender, an American-led coalition of space-faring allies working together to deter hostile actions in space, strengthen deterrence against hostile actors and address the growing issue of orbital debris.
The Space Force also signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan to host two U.S. payloads on Japan’s Quasi Zenith Satellite System, that nation’s satellite navigation system in development. The Space Force says its payloads will include optical sensors for space domain awareness. The Space Force also plans to host U.S. communications payloads on a pair of Norwegian satellites.
Beyond purposefully building space partnerships with other nations, Raymond added that just the establishment of the Space Force has raised the profile of military space organizations all around the world.
“It’s interesting to note that after we stood up the Space Force, several countries have elevated their space in their department of defense as well, including France, the U.K, Japan, and there’s others,” he noted. “There’s a significant understanding of the importance of space, and U.S. leadership in space is resonating across the globe.”
Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.