Since 1984, Space Symposium, held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has brought together leaders from around the world to discuss the future of space. This year’s event is 17-20 April. Group Editor Marty Kauchak examines how Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM)’s portfolio supports training and educating space professionals.
Beyond enabling interoperability with US allies and partners in space, the command’s many other missions include developing innovative warfighting capabilities for the space domain.
US Space Force (USSF), established 19 December 2019, is a separate and distinct branch of the armed services. The Pentagon’s newest service is organized under the Department of the Air Force in a manner very similar to how the Marine Corps is organized under the Department of the Navy.
USSF has three intermediate-level field commands within its four-tiered organizational structure: Space Operations Command (SpOC), Space Systems Command (SSC), and Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) – the focus of this profile.
S&T as Learning Enablers
STARCOM is chartered to prepare the USSF to prevail in competition and conflict through innovative education, training, doctrine, and testing.
The Space Force subordinate command offers training and education courses through lower-echelon commands labeled “Space Deltas” – in this instance Delta 1 (Training) and Delta 13 (Education). Space Deltas 10 (Doctrine and Wargaming), 11 (Range and Aggressor) and 12 (Test and Evaluation) round out STARCOM’s deltas.
Simulation and other learning technologies are an expanding part of the instructional design for these courses. For example, Delta 1’s Orbital Arena wargaming tool uses machine learning to simulate space operations involving up to 800 players on each side, offering ‘Guardians’ (the term for Space Force professionals) the opportunity to test their skills in realistic, physics-based scenarios.
Additionally, Delta 1 is embracing distance learning through an online curriculum that is accessible to Guardians wherever and whenever they need it. Unlike other computer-based training, Delta 1’s courses are led by real instructors who answer questions and provide real-time feedback. “Our courses are realistic not only in terms of replicating the classroom experience, but they’re also realistic in the sense that they incorporate online interactive physics tools previously available only in-residence,” said US Space Force Maj Zachary Van Valkenburg, Director of Operations at STARCOM’s 319th Combat Training Squadron (CTS).
Another example of STARCOM’s use of technology in training and education is Delta 13’s new innovation lab. Part of the National Security Space Institute (NSSI), the innovation lab includes augmented and virtual reality immersion sets, miniature fully functional satellite models with modularized components, holographic devices that visualize 3-dimensional information, and a combined remote operations and robotics simulator.
$10s of Millions in M&S Contracts
STARCOM continues to build upon the momentum established in building an agile and effective space training ecosystem that prepares all Guardians and space professionals to operate in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited space environment. Strengthening partnerships with academia and industry remain key to achieving the increased readiness objectives set for the newest military service. To support educational courses and enterprise training activities, STARCOM maintains tens of millions of dollars in support contracts providing modeling, simulation, and training product development and services throughout its portfolio.
A few examples of commercial support include the innovative simulation capabilities underpinning the Space Force’s premier exercise, Space Flag, and the “live fire” satellite jamming support provided to Black Skies as the newest series of exercises. With additional STARCOM advanced training activities in development, S&T business development teams and academia should be looking for opportunities to close gaps and shortfalls in the current simulation and training portfolio.
STARCOM expects future training to include a complement of advanced modeling, simulation, and live activities. Training schoolhouses for space, intelligence, and cyber Guardians will require M&S capabilities that accurately model the physics that govern the space domain, as well as having the ability to simulate adversary capabilities and actions both in orbit and on the ground that affect space systems. A useful M&S system cannot just focus on one aspect of the space enterprise but needs to incorporate on-orbit maneuvers and rendezvous events, electromagnetic warfare operations, and terrestrial capabilities that can affect those systems in both the near-earth and cis-lunar regimes, as well as the space domain awareness and space battle management aspects required to manage a space conflict. And tying in both blue and red cyber capabilities that impact the space domain so that cyber effects can be “felt” by the space systems will be highly desired. Incorporating machine learning and artificial intelligence applications to fully modernize space training capabilities will be key to developing Guardians who think differently as they work to master the art of space warfare.
Beyond increasingly innovative and rigorous learning activities, STARCOM is helping to strengthen US DoD’s mission readiness in the space domain through live training events.
Building Partnerships, Readiness Enhancers
STARCOM is increasing force readiness through ever more complex, relevant and rigorous live training events for the US services and allied and coalition partners.
This past December, the 392d Combat Training Squadron under Delta 1 completed Space Flag 23-1, which provided combat training to both US and coalition forces. 23-1 was the first in the Space Flag program to exercise combat tactics in a US European Command scenario.
A command document noted that during three two-day exercise vulnerability windows, where each included mission planning on the first day and then simulated combat operations on the second day, the training audience practiced their actual procedures to increase readiness to win in a European conflict.
“It was critically important to add a European scenario into the Space Flag exercise program. The challenges our space operators would face while conducting combat operations in a European campaign are unique, and we owe it to them to present them those challenges in a training environment first, so that if they need to do it for real, they are ready,” said LtCol Albert Harris, Commander, 392 CTS.
In response to the scenario, exercise participants planned and executed simulated combat operations in real-time throughout the entirety of the exercise. US Space Force Capt Karl Pruhsmeier, 392d CTS and Space Flag 23-1 exercise director, noted: “Using a US Air Force cyber range, the 527th Space Aggressor squadron was able to help us train multi-domain mission planning and execution, which exposed numerous opportunities to enhance mission assurance for orbital warfare, space domain awareness, space battle management, and other space warfighting functions.”
Space Flag 23-1 hosted a total of 165 participants. The training audience included 63 space warfighters from every mission delta in the Space Operations Command. The National Reconnaissance Office used the event to train nine members from their Space Force Element, and the US Air Force Reserves sent three space warfighters to receive training. Allied partners sent 26 space warfighters to Space Flag with six coming from Australia, three from Canada, and 17 from the United Kingdom.
Space Flag recently received accreditation as a Joint National Training Capability. By providing the Defense Department’s only joint-accredited space exercise, Space Flag serves a broad community and helps warfighters integrate with one another across disciplines, services, and coalitions.
US Space Force Sgt Cassidy Basney (left) and Specialist 4 Neale Hart provide intelligence assessments to drive simulated combat operations during Space Flag 22-3. Space Flag is conducted using live, virtual and constructive simulations which immerse Guardians and other participants into a synthetic virtual battlefield.
Source/credit: US Space Force/Judi Tomich
STARCOM is balancing the breadth of Space Flag with new exercises that focus on depth. The Skies Series of exercises is geared toward specific communities within the Space Force, including Black Skies for the electronic warfare community, Blue Skies for cyber operators, and Red Skies for orbital warfare specialists. Skies focuses on increasing the readiness of these individual communities by evaluating them against their training objectives for crew member certification and mission-essential task certification.
In addition to focusing on particular communities of operators, another way the Skies Series differentiates itself from Space Flag is through the use of live activity. For example, Black Skies, which STARCOM completed last September, used live and virtual simulation to give Guardians the chance to deliver electromagnetic effects against 29 simulated targets during a notional crisis in US European Command’s area of responsibility.
Aggressor-Led Advanced Training Activities
To accomplish the CSO's desire to represent training in a realistic threat environment, Space Delta 11 (Range and Aggressor Delta) has created an exercise series to provide realistic threat representation in different mission areas to the warfighters with a focus on live training scenarios developed between subject matters experts between STARCOM, Space Operations Command, and Space Systems Command. The long-term intent for these activities is to flesh out mechanics of combat-representative, unscripted exercises and assist large-scale exercises, like Space Flag and the Skies series.
The first tranche of this red-shade event was Crimson Skies. This aggressor-led event (in coordination with Delta 8) trained wideband MILSATCOM operators to identify, react, and resolve adversary interference within the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation. The 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (527 SAS) provided threat-based training scenarios, which allowed Wideband SATCOM operators the chance to see adversary actions replicated in a live format while practicing procedures that would inform the affected users. This event gave the users tools on how to improve their capabilities and procedures while allowing the aggressors to push their objectives to know, teach, and replicate.
The next aggressor-led event will take a “crawl, walk, run’ approach as Delta 11 begins coordinating efforts between three deltas to collaborate on a series of live advance training events throughout 2023, with the focus on using on-orbit service retained capabilities to perform a series of trackable actions with the intent to develop another red-shade event in the near future. The 57th Space Aggressor Squadron and the 98th Space Range Squadron will team with squadrons from Delta 2 and Delta 9 to coordinate several opportunities with Delta 11's first taskable asset, Tetra-1, to plan and capture potential value from these opportunities to advance training and prepare the warfighters for the potential adversary actions in space.
Command Roadmap Milestones
STARCOM is stepping up the pace of its activities through the command’s budget outyears.
In February, the 392d CTS will debut another new exercise for the Space Force called Polaris Hammer, the first service exercise in the US DoD exclusively focused on the command-and-control of space warfighting forces. Over the last several years the C2 of space forces has evolved considerably with the stand up of multiple field commands focused on theater-specific warfighting needs. Polaris Hammer is STARCOM’s answer to provide combat training to command-and-control units like Space Delta 5, and component field commands like US Space Forces Indo-Pacific and US Space Forces-Central. With the exercise in February, Polaris Hammer becomes the second-newest service level exercise in the Space Force, joining the Space Flag and Black Skies exercises to train and prepare space forces to win.
In March, STARCOM executed the 16th iteration of the Schriever Wargames. The event brought together allies and partners to explore critical space issues in depth, investigate military utility of new space systems, identify solutions to common challenges shared by all participants and advance space support within air, land, space and cyberspace doctrine.
The STARCOM commander conducts the Schriever Wargame Series (SWS) to inform the investigation of future US Space Force requirements, examine organizational constructs and provide a venue for advancing space operational concepts and procedures. The SWS is at the forefront of investigating these innovative concepts, with participation from a wide variety of US government agencies, DoD organizations, the intelligence community, international partner nations, and the commercial sector.
A contributing objective of STARCOM enhanced wargaming is promoting international partnerships in the space domain, just as the DoD does for air, land and sea. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom (with the US, the ‘Five Eyes’) will continue to participate as long-standing wargame partners. France, Germany and Japan, who became full partners in 2018, participated in three eight-nation events during the Schriever Wargame planning cycle to incorporate their ideas into overall planning in preparation for full integration in SW 23.
STARCOM has invested in improved training infrastructure to enhance warfighting readiness and provides opportunities for enhanced wargaming and training that provides a realistic training environment for space warfighters. The SWS gives the USSF and all international, joint, civil and commercial space mission partners a better idea of how to operate in a joint and combined environment to generate effects at a tempo an adversary cannot match.
This April, the next Space Flag event will occur. The 392d CTS plans to train US and coalition space warfighters again. This will be the first time the Space Flag exercise program will provide back-to-back coalition combat training events. Another significant milestone is the anticipated inclusion of the US Marines and US Special Operations Command. Since Space Flag is a joint-accredited exercise, the Joint Staff funded the Marines and Special Operations Command to attend the event with the intent of exploring opportunities for including them in future Space Flag training scenarios. STARCOM is also using the April Space Flag as an opportunity to possibly open the exercise to additional coalition partners.
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