US Space Force practices 'space combat tactics' to win a European conflict

Flag of the Space Training and Readiness Command
(Image credit: U.S. Space Force)

The United States Space Force is training to prepare for a hypothetical European conflict.

Space Force Guardians from the 392nd Combat Training Squadron recently completed Space Flag 23-1, the branch's first program to "exercise combat tactics in a U.S. European Command scenario," according to a statement (opens in new tab) released by Space Training and Readiness Command, or STAR Command, the service's education, training and testing component. The two-day exercise saw Space Force personnel plan mock missions and simulate space combat operations that could be used in a real conflict.

During the training exercise at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, Space Force personnel trained alongside counterparts from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, offering the chance to increase cooperation among the service's allies. "Nowhere else can U.S. and Coalition forces train together with the specificity needed to improve space combat tactics," Schramm said in the statement. "We will fight in space as a Coalition, and these opportunities are invaluable to building the team that will fight together should the need arise." 

Related: US Space Force conducts 'simulated on-orbit combat' training

The simulated European conflict of Space Flag 23-1 comes while a real conflict unfolds in Eastern Europe as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues. Throughout the war, space has played a key role as satellites operated by the United States and its commercial partners continue to provide intelligence and communications for Ukrainian forces.

While it's unknown exactly what types of "space combat tactics" were practiced in the Space Flag 23-1, previous U.S. Space Force training exercises have been conducted in recent months to build expertise in "space domain awareness, intelligence, warning and surveillance, navigation warfare, orbital warfare and satellite communications." 

Members of the 392d Combat Training Squadron stand with SPACE FLAG 23-1 participants for a group photo at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, Dec. 5, 2022. (Image credit: U.S. Space Force photo by Judi Tomich)

SpaceX's Starlink satellites have been front and center in this effort, providing internet vital for communications for Ukrainian forces after Russian attacks destroyed most of the nation's existing infrastructure. 

In response to the widespread use of Starlink satellites, Russia has stated that commercial satellites may become a "legitimate target" for its forces in military conflicts. The White House, in return, stated that  "any attack on U.S. infrastructure will be met with a response [...] in a time and manner of our choosing."

Russia has even been conducting signal jamming and cyber attacks on Starlink satellites  —  exactly the type of event Space Force Guardians may one day have to respond to in the event of a military conflict.

Space Force's mission is becoming more vital to the U.S. military's operations as anti-satellite capabilities proliferate worldwide. These span a wide range of concepts including destructive anti-satellite missiles, laser "dazzlers" that can blind satellite optics and a variety of methods to jam satellites' transmissions

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Brett Tingley
Editor, Space.com

Brett is a science and technology journalist who is curious about emerging concepts in spaceflight and aerospace, alternative launch concepts, anti-satellite technologies, and uncrewed systems. Brett's work has appeared on The War Zone at TheDrive.com, Popular Science, the History Channel, Science Discovery, and more. Brett has English degrees from Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In his free time, Brett is a working musician, a hobbyist electronics engineer and cosplayer, an avid LEGO fan, and enjoys hiking and camping throughout the Appalachian Mountains with his wife and two children. 

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