WASHINGTON — As the Space Force invests in simulators and ranges to improve its testing and training enterprise, the service’s top officer wants to ensure that operators have a hand in shaping those capabilities.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman told reporters he wants the Guardians who operate satellites and ground systems to be more involved in the process of informing requirements for new systems and making sure the training equipment is adequate.

“Who’s best to inform the acquisition community as to what those requirements are but the operators who use it?” Saltzman said during a Jan. 31 media roundtable at the Pentagon. “We’re going to figure out how to tighten those linkages.”

He suggested that capability development and planning organizations like Space Systems Command and the Space Warfighting Analysis Center should share their early digital models of new systems with operators who can then demonstrate them in a training environment and identify what works and what doesn’t.

“There’s a tight relationship between capability development and how fast we’re doing it with the operational requirements for test and training,” he said.

The Space Force is on a path toward creating a National Space Test Training Complex that will provide real-world and simulated infrastructure to improve how Guardians practice tactics and how the service develops and fields new capabilities. Space Training and Readiness Command is developing a vision for the range as well as other testing and training infrastructure needs.

Saltzman, who was sworn in as the Space Force’s second chief in early November, said he expects the service’s fiscal 2024 budget to include funding for those efforts.

“I can’t give specific numbers yet, but we are investing in and developing what I’m loosely calling an operational test and training infrastructure,” he said. “That includes simulators, that includes ranges, it includes the testing equipment, it includes the digital engineering efforts.”

Saltzman said he wants to ensure that space operators are prepared to respond to a range of threats — and he thinks more virtual training infrastructure like simulators can help with that.

“I’m trying to build a set of tools that gives maximum flexibility,” he said.

Along with the infrastructure, the Space Force is establishing metrics for gauging how prepared its forces are. STARCOM Commander Maj. Gen. Shawn Bratton told C4ISRNET in September he expects those benchmarks to be completed this year.

Saltzman said today that ensuring that Guardians are equipped with the tools to meet those targets is one of his priorities.

“Just because we have the right systems in orbit or on the ground doesn’t necessarily make it a ready force,” he said. “Personnel have to be trained. We have to have operational concepts. We have to have tactics that are validated and the operators have to practice those tactics.”

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

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