Events

August 20, 2012

Supporting war fighters from space

by Capt. Chris Sukach
Huntsville, Ala.

Air Force Space Command Vice Commander Lt. Gen. John Hyten spoke at the 15th Annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Ala., Aug. 14 and discussed how the American way of war has fundamentally changed thanks to space.

He used historical examples to illustrate his point and contrasted those with support provided in more recent conflicts like operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Hyten highlighted the importance of knowledge and communication in warfare, emphasizing how critical it is for war fighters of today to know the lay of the land.

“It’s really simple,” the general said addressing the audience of space professionals. “My job, and the job of most people in this room, is to ensure no American war fighter, no American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine ever has to worry again about what’s over that hill or what’s around the next corner. No American in combat should ever again lack the ability to communicate.”

The situational awareness space assets provide has grown vastly since 1991 and Operation Desert Storm, which is largely regarded as America’s first space war, the general said. He explained GPS was not integrated into systems like it is today and that troops supplemented the few military grade receivers they had with commercial ones duct taped to their vehicles.

Today you’d be hard pressed to find a tactical unit that doesn’t use real-time global positioning, navigation and timing capabilities, but the contributions of GPS go beyond just military application, he continued.

“It touches almost everything we do – pay-at-the-pump gas – you probably use GPS a dozen times a day and don’t even know it,” Hyten said of the integration of GPS into daily civilian life.

He also shared that, while the Defense Satellite Communications System satellites provided the backbone of the command, control and computer network during Desert Storm, the data provided by the system was small by today’s standards.

“One WGS [Wideband Global SATCOM] satellite has more bandwidth than the entire SATCOM constellation in the first Gulf War,” said the general, contrasting the technologies.

Because satellites orbit the world, the capabilities space assets provide play an integral part in meeting the needs of today’s war fighters wherever they may be, he explained.

“Our joint war fighers depend on space – they depend on the asymmetrical advantage it creates – and there is no going back,” Hyten said.

 




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