Space Force, NRO Will Fly Targeting Satellites ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ | Space

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AURORA, Colo.—The Space Force is making progress on its plan with the National Reconnaissance Office to enable space-based targeting and replace legacy Air Force aircraft, multiple senior leaders said at the AFA Warfare Symposium. 

For several years now, the Pentagon has explored the idea of space-based moving target indication (MTI). Older Air Force platforms like the E-3 AWACS and E-8 JSTARS are considered unlikely to survive long in a potential conflict with China. 

“The ultimate goal of this program is to replace legacy air-breathing platforms with more survivable space assets that can perform targeting activities needed to close long-range kill chains on a global scale,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman said during his keynote address Feb. 13. 

The U.S. already has intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets in space, but those have traditionally been controlled by the intelligence community and are frequently unavailable when military operators need them.

To fill that gap, “the Space Force was able to build on the efforts of the Air Force, analyze options, and select a way ahead in less than a year,” Saltzman said. The future could involve Space Force Guardians working side-by-side with the National Reconnaissance Office. Brig. Gen. Devin Pepper, vice commander of Space Operations Command, later told reporters that his command is leading the analysis for how to field, sustain, train, operate, and more for space-based targeting, while the NRO remains in charge of acquiring the satellites.

Lt. Gen. DeAnna M. Burt, deputy chief of space operations for operations, cyber, and nuclear, said Guardians will work alongside the NRO to provide targeting data to combatant commanders, who will have the authority to task the satellites to gather information. 

“Guardians will work the tasking of that system with the combatant command on what they are allocated when the capability…

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