Category Archives: Jan – Mar 2018

Denied, Degraded, Disrupted

By William T. Coffey Jr., Joan Rousseau and Lt. Col. Scott Mudge

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For Your Consideration:

Jamming of space-enabled operational systems is expected. Commanders and staffs need to be trained and prepared.

  • What are the space and space-enabled systems your unit possesses?
  • Do operators and staffs understand how space and space-enabled systems behave when exposed to electromagnetic interference?
  • Is your unit trained to operate and win in a denied, degraded and disrupted space operational environment?

As the U.S. Army prepares for the most lethal end of the range of military operations against known and unknown adversaries, America’s primary objective of strategic deterrence remains. Nonetheless, if deterrence fails, most military analysts concur the Army’s extensive reliance on space-enabled capabilities will be challenged in war.

The Army’s space capabilities can be viewed as a dual-edged sword. Along one edge, when properly protected, they provide an unmatched and undisputed combat advantage. On the other edge, near-peer adversaries view these capabilities as vulnerabilities to be exploited. How soldiers continue to move, shoot and communicate within a denied, degraded and disrupted space operational environment (D3SOE) will, in part, determine how quickly and efficiently the Army prevails in land combat.

Recall for a moment the devastating impacts improvised explosive devices (IEDs) had on forces throughout Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. They caught the military ill-equipped and untrained to operate within an IED operational environment. IEDs were the primary casualty-producing weapon employed against U.S. forces, significantly restricted freedom of movement and required the United States to invest billions of dollars in countermeasures. The harsh reality was the Army’s training readiness and materiel readiness were insufficient at the onset of these operations to provide a high level of force protection.

Now imagine a future war against a near-peer adversary. It is likely the adversary’s priorities will be to fight aggressively within the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). The EMS has been referred to as the “spinal cord of the modern Army,” and the nation that best operates and maneuvers within, protects and weaponizes the spectrum will have the combat advantage. A sobering thought is the adversary’s offensive operations within the EMS may have the ability to create the same devastating impacts on U.S. combat formations in a future war as IEDs had in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Space-Enabled Capabilities Today

The alarming reality is America’s near-peer adversaries already have invested heavily in their force structure, acquiring electronic attack systems (“jammers”) and tactics to deny, degrade and disrupt the U.S. military’s asymmetric advantages in space. Soldiers’ lives, as well as the outcome of the war, may be dependent on how well the Army recognizes and reacts to jamming against its space-enabled capabilities, as key digital terrain within the EMS is degraded or lost.

Informally defined, D3SOE is a condition within the area of operations and area of interest characterized by multiple factors, including intentional and unintentional electromagnetic interference (EMI) on the ability of friendly and adversary military forces to exploit space capabilities, services and products. The ability of the U.S. Army to operate in a D3SOE ensures increased levels of force protection for soldiers while preserving its means to deliver devastating effects upon enemy forces.

Indisputably, the ways in which the Army shoots, moves and communicates, across each Warfighting Function (WfF), relies heavily on space-enabled capabilities. These reliances include, but are not limited to, Global Navigational Satellite Systems (such as the U.S.-owned GPS, the Russian Federation-owned GLONASS, the European Union’s Galileo, China’s Beidou and other regional systems), satellite communications (SATCOM) and space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

Beginning in the late 1950s, the Army has built and fielded its space-enabled capabilities. Over the past 20-plus years at the tactical levels, it has delivered them all the way down to the individual soldier level. Quantitatively, today the Army has at least two satellite antennas for every soldier on the battlefield, connected globally to more than 1,450 satellites2  and linked by hundreds of ground stations. A nine-member infantry squad is dependent on up to 150 satellites in five different constellations, and a standard Army Infantry Brigade Combat Team has more than 2,500 items of space-enabled equipment.

Army Warfighting Challenges (AWfCs)

The Army Capabilities Integration Center maintains a list of AWfCs which address “enduring first-order problems, the solutions to which improve the combat effectiveness of the current and future force.”3  Although many of the 20 AWfCs include operations and capabilities enabled by space, #7 specifically addresses operating in a D3SOE:

Conduct Space and Cyber Electromagnetic Operations and Maintain Communications. How to assure uninterrupted access to critical communications and information links (satellite communications; positioning, navigation and timing; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) across a multi-domain architecture when operating in a contested, congested and competitive operating environment.

AWfC #7 provides ten associated “Learning Demands” which challenge commanders to address the problems and associated solutions necessary to train their units how to operate and win in a D3SOE. A few of these Learning Demands are:

  • How can the Army better prepare its leaders and soldiers to operate in denied, degraded and disrupted space operating environments?
  • What are the intersections, overlaps, gaps and seams between space, cyberspace, electromagnetic spectrum operations, military intelligence and information operations, and how can the Army effectively integrate these operations to support Unified Land Operations?
  • How does the Army execute Navigation Warfare, ensuring that Army forces have assured and reliable access to position, navigation and timing information while denying the same to our adversaries?

Drawing from this guidance, subordinate commanders have the responsibility to develop their own training objectives and integrate, to the greatest extent possible, elements of D3SOE operations into their home station and Combat Training Center training requirements. Units’ D3SOE training should include classroom instruction, hands-on experience and field exercises which rehearse D3SOE-related Tactical Standard Operating Procedures and stress operations in a D3SOE from the individual level up through command post collective training events.

Examples of specific D3SOE-related training objectives may include:

  • Exercise and refine D3SOE-related Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency (PACE) plans.
  • Exercise and refine D3SOE-related Command Post Battle Drills.
  • Rapidly find, fix and finish (lethal) enemy GPS and SATCOM jammers.
  • Plan and execute attacks (lethal and non-lethal) against the enemy’s space-enabled capabilities.

PACE Plans

PACE plans are, by their nature, very unit specific and must be developed by their respective WfF, staff element or functional area subject-matter experts. They should consider many variables, including fielded equipment; training readiness; operational variables such as mission, enemy, terrain and weather, forces and support available, time available and civil considerations; political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information factors; and familiarity with the area of interest. Some PACE plans which should be considered for development include but are not limited to:

  • The U.S. Army relies heavily on SATCOM as the primary means to move large volumes of data, securely and over great distances. When select SATCOM systems are denied, degraded or disrupted, alternate SATCOM systems, line of sight systems, hard wire/landline and manual methods (such as runners) should be considered and practiced.
  • Friendly Force Tracking. Units should consider and train on tracking units using SATCOM/Beyond Line of Sight, line of sight communications and analog battle tracking.
  • Target Acquisition. Primary target acquisition often involves the use of unmanned aircraft systems, national systems, radars, laser designation systems, target coordinate correlation tools and forward observers using SATCOM reporting means. In a D3SOE, commanders and staffs should develop PACE plans on how best to detect, geo-locate and report targets.
  • Precision Engagement. In a D3SOE, the Fires WfF, through the weaponeering process, should plan to employ multiple types of munitions which provide the greatest accuracies available and achievable. Commanders and staffs should have PACE plans to attain the best precision while operating in a D3SOE.
  • Information Collection. Many information collection and Joint ISR assets rely on GPS, SATCOM and national capabilities. Before GPS, SATCOM and national systems become denied, degraded or disrupted, commanders and staffs should develop PACE plans on how to develop and execute their Information Collection Plans to support the commander’s Priority Intelligence Requirements.
  • Battle Damage Assessment. A unit’s ability to conduct assessments oftentimes relies on UASs and national systems to collect post-strike data. Units should consider other means such as manned aircraft and ground forces to observe and multiple communications means to report data to higher headquarters.

Decision Making and Information Requirements

All WfFs must consider space-enabled capabilities and their vulnerabilities throughout all phases of the MDMP. When provided by the Space Support Elements (either from higher command or organically), the space estimate provides input into course of action analysis and informs the development of the commander’s information requirements. These information requirements, comprised of Commander’s Critical Information Requirements (which includes both Priority Intelligence Requirements [PIR] and Friendly Force Information Requirements [FFIR]) and Essential Elements of Friendly Information (EEFI) typically include language which directly or indirectly addresses D3SOE considerations. Some examples of these may include:

PIR “How I See the Enemy”: These information requirements pose questions about the enemy and drive the Intelligence WfF’s Information Collection Plan:

  • “How will Arianna [a fictitious nation used in scenarios to design Army exercises] forces attempt to degrade or destroy our C2, Mission Command capabilities?”
  • “What is the enemy’s Electronic Attack Order of Battle? (Including types of jammers, quantity, capabilities, limitations, unit strengths, disposition/location, employment tactics, intent of jammers, associated indications and warnings, etc.)?”

FFIR “How I See Myself”: These information requirements ask questions the commander needs to know about their own forces and provide direct input into the commander’s situational understanding:

  • “Report any electromagnetic interference (EMI)/enemy jamming of communications, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) platforms, GPS or Radars.”
  • “Report loss of critical Mission Command systems (Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, Joint Battle Command-Platform/Joint Capabilities Release, SATCOM systems, GPS).”
  • “Report loss of critical Intelligence Collection UAS (Shadow, Gray Eagle, Raven).”
  • “Report degradation or loss of precision engagement capabilities.”

EEFI “How I Prevent the Enemy From Seeing Me”: These information requirements are what friendly forces believe the enemy would like to know about U.S. forces and capabilities and provide direct input to Operational Security, Information Operations and Military Deception plans and operations.

  • “What are the targeting timelines required to lethally target enemy jammers?”
  • “How effective are enemy jammers against space-enabled capabilities, systems and munitions?”
  • “What are the SATCOM Signals of Interest associated with U.S. Army UAS operations and mission command nodes/command posts?”

Command Post Battle Drills for Current Operations

Command post battle drills outline collective and sequential tasks staffs must perform without the application of a deliberate decision-making process, in a time-constrained environment and with minimal direction or guidance to accomplish. Battle drills should be developed and tailored to each staff, then trained, rehearsed and refined through exercises. Recommended battle drills which should be considered as units prepare to operate in a D3SOE, for battalion up to Army Service Component Command staffs, may include, but are not limited to, PS EMI, SATCOM EMI, UAS Anomalies, Personnel Recovery, Overhead Persistent Infrared, Dynamic/Time Sensitive Targeting (especially as it pertains to requirements to physically destroy enemy jammers) and Degraded National Systems.

Fires Options for Commanders

The development and maintenance of the space running estimate, to include maintaining a current enemy space order of battle, provides the commander with offensive options and effects to attack the enemy’s use of space as well as the enemy’s ability to attack the Army’s use of space. These targeting options consist of lethal and non-lethal effects to shape and control the EMS to the commander’s advantage.

Enemy targets commanders may consider for lethal attack may include physical ground-based systems and capabilities such as tactically-employed systems or strategic-level control facilities.

Other targets commanders may consider for non-lethal attacks may include means to deny, degrade or disrupt the portions of the EMS used for space-based position, navigation and timing (such as GPS and Global Navigational Satellite System) and SATCOM, especially those associated with force tracking, UASs, mission command and precision engagement capabilities and operations.

Requests for D3SOE Training Support

Brigade and below level units should contact their higher command’s Space Support Element for D3SOE training and training support. SSEs requesting training support at division, corps and ASCC headquarters should exercise their chain of command up through the Combatant Command’s Space Coordinating Authority. Additionally, units may contact the USASMDC/ARSTRAT G37 Training, Readiness and Exercises Division, Army Space Training Integration Branch at (DSN 692) 719-554-1922 or 554-8773 to discuss training opportunities, resources and requirements.

Authors: William T. Coffey Jr. is a senior space operations analyst; Joan Rousseau is chief of the Army Space Training Integration Branch; and Lt. Col. Scott Mudge is chief of Operational Training; all in the Training, Readiness and Exercise division, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

1  Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Cyber/EW, Aviation, Air Defense, Artillery: CSA Milley’s Priorities,” Breaking Defense, Jan. 12, 2017,

2  Union of Concerned Scientists, “UCS Satellite Database,” updated Dec. 31, 2016,

3  Army Capabilities Integration Center, “Army Warfighting Challenges,” updated Oct. 24, 2017,

Maneuvering in Space

By Donald E. Messmer, Jr.

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For Your Consideration:

“Talking Army” helps soldiers understand what space operations bring to the fight.

  • Does using the term “space operations maneuver” help communicate the importance of military space capabilities?
  • What are the physical and doctrinal aspects of space operations maneuver?

Lessons learned over the past decade have taught us space operations are critical to unified land operations and the way the Army fights. Soldiers of all ranks and from all branches have stated repeatedly the dependency Army forces have on space operations. This reliance is well codified in doctrine. Just as new lessons are constantly being learned, however, they also must be constantly integrated into doctrine.

The 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance places “Operate Effectively in Cyberspace and Space”1  as one of the top defense mission areas. It recognizes space capabilities as a critical component of an agile, responsive and tailorable force capable of responding to any mission, anywhere, any time. Effective space operations only can occur with a force adept in current practices and doctrine.

Experience has proven Army space operations are effective but not well understood by soldiers, including many senior leaders, largely due to abstract terminology. Space operators use terms of the art such as space force enhancement, space support and space control without understanding the communications gap this causes with the rest of the Army. These terms do a poor job of describing the capabilities and effects space operations deliver and how they help soldiers in unified land operations. Recognizable, self-descriptive terminology is needed to communicate to soldiers the capabilities and effects provided by space operations.

To illustrate this point, Army soldiers know how to navigate using handheld devices that harness the power of GPS but may not recognize degraded conditions or realize that their mission may be impacted when someone announces position, navigation and timing (PNT) is degraded. Many soldiers cannot recognize their handheld GPS device is being jammed and may simply believe the device is malfunctioning because they don’t understand “space-jargon” or the impact when they are told there is electromagnetic interference affecting PNT.

Make the Abstract Recognizable

To be effective, the capabilities and effects of space-based operations such as PNT; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); satellite communications (SATCOM); environmental monitoring/weather; and missile warning must be available to the warfighter whenever needed. Space operations must be responsive to commanders’ needs, remain flexible to each situation and be agile in response to operating in a denied, degraded and disrupted space operational environment (D3SOE)–the space operations focus of operating within a contested electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) environment.

In his book On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis, a pioneer of the contemporary field of leadership studies, writes, “You have to be able to make the abstract recognizable, because only then can people accept or reject it.”2  Space operations widely are acknowledged as abstract, most likely because they are not easily observed, recognized or understood, aside from the well-known use of SATCOM and GPS.

One of the things that makes space operations so critical for the Army is they give fighting forces a distinct advantage during fires, movement and maneuver. As Lt. Gen. David L. Mann, then-commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, said to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2014, “Army space forces contribute to the Joint Force and the Army’s ability to be adaptive, versatile and agile to meet tomorrow’s security challenges. Simply put, space capabilities are critical elements to the Army’s ability to see, shoot, move and communicate.”3

According to Joint Publication 3-0, the first of four definitions of maneuver is “a movement to place ships, aircraft or land forces in a position of advantage over the enemy.” The absolute necessity for space operations to enhance ground operations drives both the Army’s and space operations adaptivity, versatility and agility. It is this same necessity coupled with recent lessons learned that drives doctrine to adopt the framework of space operations maneuver.

Space operations maneuver should be a subset of a newly recognized but unnamed electronic maneuver used to place forces into a position of advantage. Electronic maneuver includes those operations dependent upon the EMS such as space, cyberspace, signal, electronic warfare and information operations. This article’s focus is on space operations maneuver, but the discussion is just as applicable to the umbrella definition and understanding of electronic maneuver, although specific examples will differ.

The definition of maneuver is largely limited to ground, sea and air. The codified joint definitions given for maneuver talk about “ships, aircraft, or land forces . . .,” “at sea, in the air, on the ground or on a map . . .” or “operation of a ship, aircraft or vehicle . . . .”4  Only the latter can remotely be applied to space operations, and only if one considers a satellite as the “vehicle” mentioned. But even this application does not address the virtual aspect of electronic maneuver or space operations maneuver, wherein both deliver a position of advantage over the enemy without physically moving resources.

While the codified definitions of maneuver fail to recognize how maneuver applies to those operations dependent upon EMS, practitioners should not be bound by a conventional definition that prevents them from providing a thorough and proper explanation of space operations maneuver. Failure to update doctrinal language when operational environments change relegates the doctrine to a position of dogma. The long pole in the tent is whether to create new language, which even fewer soldiers will understand, or expand upon–or corrupt, depending on one’s perspective–an existing definition.

At the October 2016 meeting  of the Association of the United States Army, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work gave a special address opening a seven-member panel discussion titled “Multi-Domain Battle: Ensuring Joint Force Freedom of Action in Future War.” He said, “Multi-domain battle envisions a future where you synchronize cross-domain fires and maneuver in all the domains to achieve physical, temporal and positional advantages.”5

Space operations are critical in providing cross-domain fires, whether supporting targeting information for conventional fires or providing the capability and effects for electronic fires. Space operations maneuver is a cornerstone of space operations and must be recognized as part of the lexicon. Work said exactly that: “synchronize cross-domain maneuver in all the domains,” which explicitly implies space operators manipulating space resources in the space domain–or simply space operations maneuver.

Space Operations Maneuver as a Framework

The Army uses the warfighting functions as an operational framework to assist commanders and staffs in describing the application of combat power. An operational framework is a cognitive tool used to assist commands and staffs to clearly visualize and describe the application of combat power in time, space, purpose and resource.6  An operational framework that uses the most recognizable of Army terms and highlights space operations’ responsiveness, flexibility and agility makes space operations easier to recognize and understand.

Space operations maneuver is a framework borne from the lessons of more than a decade of war which has helped mature Army space operations. It is a cohesive term used to pull together multiple space capabilities and effects used together to achieve a desired result. Space operations maneuver recognizes space operations must be conducted in a collaborative manner, and it does so using a term all soldiers readily recognize and understand.

Space operations maneuver is not an Army warfighting function, nor does it attempt to modify the movement and maneuver warfighting function. Space operations maneuver is not a new space mission area, function, process or concept, nor does it attempt to modify the existing space mission areas. It is a doctrinal framework used to describe and codify the responsive, flexible and agile actions space operations always have undertaken to ensure mission success.

As a doctrinal framework, the term space operations maneuver improves communication. It conveys far more than abstract operations. Space operations maneuver tells soldiers Army space operations are responsive, flexible and agile. It indicates space operations provide capabilities and effects to place Army forces in a position of advantage over the adversary. It tells soldiers Army space operations will adjust to overcome operating in a D3SOE and that space operations are more than static PNT and SATCOM.

Space operations maneuver requires a high level of competency and coordination by a variety of personnel across all military services. Arguably, conducting space operations maneuver is a quintessential core competency sought by space operations personnel from all services; without it, space operations become stagnant and unable to react in a D3SOE.

Using Space Operations Maneuver to Conceptualize Operations

According to Army Doctrine Publication 3-0, “Doctrine often describes an idealized situation and then contrasts the ideal with the reality Army leaders expect. Doctrine provides a means of conceptualizing campaigns and operations, as well as the detailed understanding of conditions.”7

For the non-space soldier, conceptualizing how space operations support a specific operation or campaign is difficult when the space terminology is a language unique unto itself and totally different from the rest of the Army. This difference should drive leaders in the space operations community to use common, existing terminology soldiers already recognize and understand to effectively describe the capabilities and effects space operations can deliver.

Army operations are dependent on the integration of space functions, but too many commanders cannot conceptualize, visualize or understand how space operations support their operations or contribute mission success. Much of the lack of understanding can be directly linked to obscure and ambiguous space terminology and unseen effects. The Army wins when commanders and staffs have a clear understanding that space operations provide capabilities and effects simply from the term used.

The space operations maneuver doctrinal framework is used as a cognitive tool which gives soldiers a simple way to understand and conceptualize space operations. It provides an intellectual organization of space capabilities and effects used to assist commanders and staffs. When they conceptualize space operations in terms of space operations maneuver, Army commanders and staffs are better able to visualize and understand integrated space operations and how they collectively contribute to Army and joint mission success.

The space operations maneuver framework extends the well-established, well-understood term maneuver to space operations to help soldiers recognize and understand space capabilities and effects. Soldiers no longer see space operations as static GPS signals or satellite communications. They may not understand exactly how space operations maneuver occurs, but they will recognize and understand it can overcome D3SOE and place friendly forces in a relative position of advantage.

Where Does Space Operations Maneuver Occur?

Now that you know what space operations maneuver is not, what exactly is space operations maneuver? Space operations maneuver is a physical or virtual movement of space resources to obtain a desired result that provides ground forces a position of relative advantage over the enemy.

Space operations maneuver occurs in both the physical and electronic realms and is implemented in all three space segments: space/on-orbit, control/link and ground segments. It is used to support optimization of space-based capabilities and effects. It also supports active and passive protection from environmental hazards and adversarial threats.

The physical aspect of space operations maneuver includes but is not limited to launching newer satellites, moving on-orbit satellites to another position, deploying space-related assets and forces into an operational area, moving ground terminals/receivers to maximize reception, resilience measures (such as resource distribution, redundancy and protection), bent-pipe operations and distributed architectures/disaggregation of space resources.

Some examples of EMS maneuver include but are not limited to boosting power/gain, changing channels, changing frequencies, frequency hopping, shifting users to other satellites (both commercial and military), moving spot beams, altering beam shape, changing modulation schemes, crosslinking (transmissions from one satellite to another), cross-banding (crossing from one frequency band to another), connectivity through multiple access points, re-routing communications in near-real time and the tactics, techniques and procedures designed to overcome threats and hazards to ensure mission success.

Direct fire and close combat are inherent in ground maneuver. Given the perpetual state of congested and contested space operations, it is easy to understand how electronic fires and close combat in the EMS are the reasons D3SOE exits.

Space superiority permits the conduct of operations at a given time and place without prohibitive interference. Achieving and maintaining space superiority during D3SOE may only occur during small windows of opportunity opened using space operations maneuver techniques. Space operations maneuver is what gives space operations the ability to succeed at a given time and place by out-maneuvering prohibitive interference.

It’s Already Used in Doctrine

To be clear, space operations maneuver is not new; it has been part of Army space operations since its inception. Space operations maneuver is inherently codified in Field Manual 3-14. Readers of FM 3-14 know it discusses maximizing connectivity, enhancing accuracy, avoiding situations negatively impacting operations, enabling forces to take advantage of adverse environmental conditions and maneuvering to positions of advantage.

Space operations maneuver requires a high level of competencies by space warfighters across all space functions. Arguably, conducting space operations maneuver is a quintessential core competency sought by space operations personnel from all services. Without it, space operations become stagnant and unable to react in a D3SOE.

Situational understanding generates space operations maneuver opportunities before and during operations across the range of military operations with unified action partners. Situational understanding is the product of applying analysis and judgment to relevant information to determine the relationship among operational and mission variables to facilitate decision making. Situational understanding is a necessity to be able to implement the space operations maneuver framework.

Traditional ground maneuver forces shape the security environment through the conduct of security cooperation. They do this through Department of Defense interactions with foreign governments to build defense relationships that promote common security interests and help allied and friendly militaries develop capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations.

Space operations maneuver also has a role to play in shaping the security environment. Shared space-based missile warning data builds defense capacity; missile defense develops capabilities for self-defense and common security interests, and both foster defense relationships. Satellite communications and space control operations enable increased multinational cooperative mission. PNT, space environmental monitoring and shared space-based surveillance and reconnaissance all enable multinational operations.

New Frameworks and Terms

Space operations has always conducted space operations maneuver. The problem is we have never labeled it as such and have disguised it with obscure terminology. Consequently, the Army does not recognize or understand it. It’s time we finally give the cat a recognizable and understandable name, then let it out of the bag. It needs to be out of the bag so the operating force can gain a better understanding and appreciation for space operations.

The Army operates in an environment of changing threats and hazards, resources, technology and doctrine. Doctrine is what we do and how best to do it. Doctrine is not static; it is dynamic in nature and must evolve to keep pace as warfare evolves. As a result, the Army must update its doctrine as changes occur. Such updates draw heavily from warfighter experiences in the field. Only then does doctrine maintain relevance to soldiers.

As we look at the past with new perspectives, new frameworks and terms must be codified to capture the evolving nature of operations, or we risk our doctrine becoming stagnant, ineffective dogma. Space operations maneuver is a great place to start.

 Author: Donald E. Messmer, Jr., is chief of Doctrine and Collective Training in the Future Warfare Center Directorate of Training and Doctrine, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

1  U.S. Department of Defense, Sustaining Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (Washington:  January 2012), pg. 5.

2  Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1989), pg. 107.

3  U.S. Senate, Committee on Armed Services, “Statement by Lieutenant General David L. Mann, USA, Commanding General, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command, Before the Committee on Armed Services, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, United States Senate on Space Programs,” March 12, 2014,, pg. 3.

4  Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-0, Joint Operations (Washington: January 17, 2017), pg. GL-12.

5  Association of the United States Army, Contemporary Military Forum, “Multi-Domain Battle: Ensuring Joint Force Freedom of Action in Future War,” 19:54, Oct. 4, 2016,

6  Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Publication No. 1-01, Doctrine Primer (Washington: September 2014), paras. 4-27 and 4-40.

7  Headquarters, Department of the Army, Army Doctrine Publication No. 3-0, Unified Land Operations (Washington: October 2011), para. 5.

Is Smaller Better?

By Capt. Justin P. Martirosian

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For Your Consideration:

Low cost, high availability and product delivery to tactical users are potential advantages of military SmallSats.

  • Are SmallSats a promising solution to the Operationally Responsive Space paradigm or can legacy constellations be modified to meet future needs?
  • How could SmallSats impact resilient space?
  • Other than SmallSats, what are some alternative solutions to the ORS paradigm?

As use of technology on the battlefield increases, “on demand” delivery of space effects is becoming an expectation at echelons below the strategic level. Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) is one of many new challenges for the space community. How can the U.S. military provide space-based capabilities down to the operational level? SmallSats provide an economic and rapidly deployable means.

Operationally Responsive Space is defined by the Department of Defense (DoD) as “assured space power focused on timely satisfaction of the Joint Force Commander’s needs.”1  The National Security Space Office in its ORS report outlines three desires from the commander of U.S. Strategic Command: rapidly exploit and infuse space technological or operational innovations; rapidly adapt or augment existing space capabilities when needed to expand operational capability; and rapidly reconstitute or replenish critical space capabilities to preserve operational capability.2

The ORS report distills these desires into two elements, anticipatory and reactionary. These elements are intended to provide assured space capabilities at a lower cost, in a more timely fashion than current legacy systems.

Responsive Space

In order to provide responsive space capabilities, assets available must be increased and constellation control must be decentralized. SmallSats are currently the most promising solution to the ORS paradigm. SmallSats, satellites with a mass less than 180 kilograms,3  offer a satellite bus that is highly capable at significantly lower cost than traditional large buses.

Tactical and operational requirements include satellite imagery; position, navigation and timing; and satellite communication. Current national systems are shared across the DoD, limiting availability and restricting control of space capabilities to the strategic echelon, hindering responsiveness to tactical and operational needs.

Historically, control of space-based capabilities is retained at the strategic level, far above the warfighter. In order for the warfighter to receive space effects, a formal request for the capability must be made, requiring multiple approval steps. Employment of SmallSat constellations designed specifically to meet the needs of tactical or operational units allows decentralization of a constellation’s control structure, giving the warfighter more autonomy and unprecedented access to space-based capabilities.

The DoD launched an experimental SmallSat in 2007, known as TacSat. The TacSat program sought to design satellites that were “good enough” for the warfighter, constrained the design life of the satellite to one year and focused on the use of existing technologies. By requiring the use of current technology when developing specifications, both time and resources that would have been dedicated to research and development were reallocated to other project areas, decreasing overall design time and lowering cost dramatically. The limitation on operational/design life to one year means less focus on system redundancy, fuel capacity or the need for high-radiation resilient systems, again saving cost.

“Good Enough” Resolution

Currently the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command is experimenting with a MicroSat known as Kestrel Eye, released from the International Space Station in October 2017. Kestrel Eye is an “electro-optical microsatellite-class imagery satellite for tasking by the tactical ground component Warfighter.”4  Its ability to deliver tactically relevant imagery, downlinked directly to the user, provides an ability to gain situational awareness without a lengthy request, approval and delivery cycle.

Current cost estimates put Kestrel Eye at less than $2 million per spacecraft. Dramatically cheaper than legacy systems, Kestrel Eye demonstrates the potential feasibility for theater-optimized constellations in support of specific operations or organizations.

As technology becomes more accessible to the lower echelons, situational awareness increases, improving the autonomy of lower echelon leaders.

Although SmallSat constellations do not provide the same resolution as legacy systems, they can provide imagery much quicker. At the tactical level of war, it’s not always about the resolution of the imagery, but how available and current the imagery is. SmallSats could provide “good enough” resolution in a timely manner that allows tactical leaders to plan and execute missions with greater confidence. Conceptually, SmallSat constellations tailored to specific mission requirements, launched in support of division-level operations, could be the end state of a SmallSat ORS solution.

Due to their size and relative simplicity, SmallSats can be rapidly produced en masse in order to meet any mission requirement. Pre-assembled SmallSat buses can be stored awaiting a host of possible payloads, decreasing the delay between the identification of a capability gap and deployment of the solution. This rapid deployment of operational capability lies in stark contrast to the current framework that can take upwards of a decade for research and development, assembly and launch.

The majority of SmallSats can launch from hosted dispensers in conjunction with resupply missions to the International Space Station or piggyback off of launches for other systems. This dramatically lowers the cost of launch and increases the frequency with which either constellations or individual satellites can be placed into orbit.

Cost Effective and Versatile

SmallSats provide a cost effective and versatile solution for the ORS paradigm. At $2 million per Kestrel Eye, it is hard to find a more cost-effective space solution. The overall time and cost reduction make the prospect of multiple SmallSat constellations more feasible than the introduction of new legacy system constellations. At the tactical and operational levels, resolution can be sacrificed for readily available imagery that provides critical situational awareness to the warfighter.

Rapidly deployable systems that form optimized constellations for specific areas of operations can change how we currently fight. With the total cost per satellite lower than legacy systems, constellations become more affordable and revisit rates increase for areas of interest.

SmallSats are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They provide another option, however, in the pursuit of a solution to the ORS paradigm. While there always will be a need for the capabilities of larger systems, space planners should consider modularly customizable, rapidly deployable SmallSats as the future of Operationally Responsive Space.

Author: Capt. Justin P. Martirosian is deputy special technical operations chief, U.S. Forces–Afghanistan (National Support Element). He holds a master’s of science degree in geological engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

1 Deputy Secretary of Defense, Plan for Operationally Responsive Space: A Report to Congressional Defense Committees (Washington: April 17, 2007).

2 Ibid.

3 Elizabeth Mabrouk, ed., NASA, Science Instruments, “What Are SmallSats and CubeSats?” Feb. 26, 2015,

4 U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, “Kestrel Eye,” fact sheet,

Go Tactical to Succeed

By Capt. Ryan Stephenson

Click Here for a Printable/PDF Version

For Your Consideration:

Operating in contested environments requires special land and space systems. Proposed: An Army tactical space program for multi-domain battle.

  • Can the U.S. Army’s space architecture support land forces in a multi-domain battle?
  • Should Army space forces become members of the combined arms team?
  • Would creating resilient Army space capabilities deter our adversaries?

The multi-domain battle concept is driving change across the Army; it is impacting current doctrine, future organizations and the systems we procure. The multi-domain battle concept encompasses a mounting problem known for many years. Adversaries are capable of attacking across all domains (land, maritime, air, space and cyberspace) to degrade U.S. technological advantages and fracture the highly integrated joint force.1

Since September 2001, the Army has operated against violent extremists and non-peer adversaries in a benign space environment. This has left little justification for widespread procurement of new ground combat systems and even less justification to modernize the space capabilities to support them.2  The emergence of new adversary capabilities combined with a pause in modernization has led to a dangerous situation: The Army may not be able to fight effectively in a war with multiple contested domains.

It is time to fundamentally change the space capabilities the Army provides for unified land operations. To accomplish this change, the Army should create a tactical space program and equip Army space forces with new capabilities to conduct unified land operations in a multi-domain battle.

Why an Army Tactical Space Program?

An Army tactical space program would allow the service to refresh its space dependencies in a context of the threats posed by the current Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2AD) challenge and the emerging operating environment. It would equip Army space forces so that they can properly contest peer adversaries in the space domain and enable land combat functions in the multi-domain battle environment.

The Army’s development of the Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) pilot formation is the beginning of a new structure to leverage tactical space integration.3  The functions of the MDTF would likely require substantial support from systems in the space domain. An Army tactical space program could help meet these emerging needs.

An Army tactical space program would provide a mechanism to develop integrated solutions to land domain capability gaps. By using the Army’s program office construct and leveraging expertise in system of systems integration, the benefits of space enhancement could be extended to many existing Army programs.

An Army tactical space program could work closely with select program offices to develop improved space linkages to mission command systems, expand reconnaissance capability for maneuver units, improve the resilience of unmanned aerial systems (UASs), bolster tactical communications and assist fires systems with targeting.

By working within the confines of land force needs, excessive system requirements can be avoided; the primary engineering focus would be interoperability with land force combat systems. When the requirements of a space system are scoped to a small number of specific needs there is more flexibility for creative and less-expensive material solutions. Additionally, engineering tactical space systems in unison with the ground combat systems that will use them will allow for entirely new methods of land-space integration to develop.

This stands in contrast to the current model where large space systems provide user services designed to meet a broad set of requirements which often conflict.  For these reasons, a well-scoped Army tactical space program would serve as the best vehicle to realize improved space capabilities for land domain forces.

In addition to supporting the MDTF, an Army tactical space program could develop space systems to dramatically enhance other land force formations to fill the capability gaps the Army has identified. This same program also could develop training equipment to replicate space-denied environments for land forces at training centers and exercise locations. This would extend the reach of the Army space training strategy and support realistic threat replication for units in training.

The specific functions performed by tactical space systems would need to be developed through concepts and experimentation, but there are many potential starting points. Army space forces equipped with tactical space systems could provide maneuver forces with timely space-based imagery and full-motion video to support targeting and fires observation in areas where UASs cannot fly.

Tactical space systems could enhance small UAS platforms by extracting data and passing commands from low Earth orbit, enabling them to operate deep into enemy areas without constant line of site radio links. Tactical space systems in low earth orbit could provide electromagnetic spectrum reconnaissance data directly to ground users, unhindered by excessive security barriers.

The Army also could use small communication satellites to balance the threat of enemy electronic warfare systems by communicating across the battlefield in multiple bands with distinctive temporal geometries above ground forces. The potential applications of tactical space systems for the Army are truly numerous.

Defining an Army Tactical Space Program

Before discussing the justification for an Army Tactical space program, it is necessary to describe the activities it would perform and define its characteristics. An Army tactical space program would develop, acquire, field and sustain space and select land systems for employment by the Army’s space forces. It would focus on meeting the capability gaps of land domain forces in a multi-domain battle characterized by A2AD threats and a Contested, Degraded and Operationally limited (CDO) environment. It would not seek to meet national or strategic requirements, complement national systems or serve as a test-bed for large strategic systems.

An Army tactical space program would have two major lines of effort:

  • Leverage the benefits of the space domain to enable decentralized land force operations in support of the Army’s mission command philosophy
  • Deliver synchronized capabilities from, through and into the space domain in direct support of land domain forces.

This program would meet the space-related requirements of maneuver units and the emerging MDTF while operating within the confines of Army mission command systems. Tactical space systems from this program would help maneuver units to see, move and communicate, while projecting force across the depth of the battlefield. They would link units and systems in the theater of combat, minimize the amount of data processing and reduce the latency of information. In short, an Army tactical space program would be satellites for soldiers.

The primary goal of an Army tactical space program should be to equip Army space forces so they can evolve into a crucial member of the combined arms team. Achieving this goal will enable Army space forces to project power and create windows of advantage for land domain forces.

The secondary goal should be to develop space-based systems to support warfighting functions. Land domain reconnaissance, fires and protection systems could derive significant benefits from augmentation by specialized tactical space systems. In this way, Army tactical space systems could support flexible and resilient capabilities across multiple domains and the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Problem

The multi-domain battle concept was created by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command in 2016 in response to the military developments of emerging peer adversaries. It is predicated on adversaries’ reaction to the success of U.S. forces in the 1991 Gulf War and U.S. military actions throughout the 1990s.5

U.S. forces in the Gulf War were the first combat forces to leverage the benefits of space on a wide scale and did so with tremendous success.6  The results of Operation Desert Storm sent a clear message to the world: A high-tech land force, supported by a modern Air Force, could attack with greater power than the conventional force ratio would dictate.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army in particular reacted by developing numerous electronic warfare capabilities and modernizing its military doctrine.7  Other near-peer adversaries studied the strengths and weaknesses of the joint force and adopted deliberate strategies to degrade capabilities across all domains. These adversary actions are meant to challenge U.S. premises of domain superiority and deter us from responding to their aggression.8

Taken as a whole, the multi-domain battle concept describes the emerging threat environment and prescribes a solution to counter the threats facing the Army and Marine Corps. The threat environment of multi-domain battle encompasses other familiar concepts: the CDO environment, A2AD threats and the Denied, Degraded and Disrupted Environment.

All of these concepts can be grouped into a general notion that adversaries will contest the U.S. military across all domains while employing long-range precision strike capabilities from areas with highly integrated air and maritime defense systems. They will do this to enable their ground forces to seize the initiative and operate more freely from joint force standoff attacks.9

The general problem of multi-domain battle is easy to understand but hard to solve. In a Joint Army and Marine Corps white paper published in February 2017, implications of the multi-domain operating environment are summed up succinctly:

“Over the last 25 years, assumptions of air, land, maritime, space, and cyberspace domain superiority drove the doctrine, equipment, and posture of U.S. forces. These assumptions are proving to be invalid in light of recent changes to adversary capabilities, capacities, and approaches. Potential adversaries now possess capabilities that allow them to contest both the deployment and employment of U.S. forces in greatly expanded areas of operation, interest, and influence. U.S. forces are not organized, trained, equipped, and postured to properly contest emerging and potential threats. As a result, the freedom of action required to support U.S. policy, by deterring, and if necessary, defeating potential enemies is at risk.”10

It is critical for Army space professionals to understand these implications. Since the Gulf War, the satellite architecture used by ground forces has evolved on a linear trend. User equipment has become smaller and more capable, but taken as a whole, there have been few pioneering advances in the satellite architecture that supports ground combat.

This linear evolution has resulted in an Army that seems to be at a pinnacle of space integration. Vehicles and soldiers are equipped with GPS navigation on a wide scale, satellite communication terminals are abundant in brigades and space-based intelligence helps decision-making down to the company level.

Under closer examination, however, the hard truth emerges. GPS is vulnerable to jamming and exploitation; tactical SATCOM bandwidth, particularly UHF, is limited; and space-derived intelligence is highly classified and slow to arrive at forward elements.

The willingness of adversaries to attack the vulnerabilities of U.S. space systems is not the only problem in multi-domain battle. Many of our most prized battlefield technologies are vulnerable to attack or negation across multiple domains (cyber and land-based infrastructure), including the electromagnetic spectrum. Enemy forces will synchronize their attacks across all domains to create numerous dilemmas for the joint force.11

In such a scenario, U.S. forces cannot rely on fixed communications that are detectable and targetable with kinetic weapons. The battlefield will have high levels of jamming and interference, making communication difficult. Unmanned aerial systems will be vulnerable to enhanced air-defense threats and electronic attack. Battlefield sensors and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets will require direct networking to ground forces to preserve situational awareness as enemy forces attempt to seize the initiative. The ability to interdict enemy precision strike capabilities will be essential to protecting forces. Preserving the ability to navigate and employ precision weapons will be equally important.

By understanding the operating environment of multi-domain battle, the problem facing the Army becomes apparent. Our current space architecture is not postured to support tactical land forces in a multi-domain battle characterized by contested domains and A2AD threats.

The Army is beginning to recognize this in its broader study of current and emerging capability gaps. Recently, the Army G-3/5/7 conducted a comprehensive review of regional scenarios and studies that evaluated land forces in a CDO environment with A2AD threats. It found common capability gaps across every scenario and compiled them into a single prioritized list of shortfalls and gaps called the “Oklahoma Chart.”12  In this list, each capability gap is linked by function to a prioritized list of challenges facing the Army. Nearly every capability gap identified is the direct result of enemy threat systems found in an A2AD and CDO environment. Many of the gaps identified are related to the design limitations of current space systems, and several of the gaps have the potential to be filled by tactical space systems.

The problem of filling these gaps is complicated, but the multi-domain battle white paper proposes an elegant solution synopsis for land forces:

“Combined Arms for the 21st century requires ready and resilient Army and Marine Corps combat forces capable of outmaneuvering adversaries physically and cognitively through the extension of combined arms across all domains. Through credible forward presence and resilient battle formations, future Army and Marine Corps forces integrate and synchronize capabilities as part of a joint team to create temporary windows of superiority across multiple domains and throughout the depth of the battlefield in order to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative; defeat enemies; and achieve military objectives.”13

            There are two key points in this statement. Army space forces must be able to operate as part of a combined arms team with a credible forward presence, and they must be able to integrate capabilities from the space domain throughout the depth of the battlefield. In these respects, we must recognize that the task is to leverage the benefits of the space domain for land forces to open windows of superiority, seize the initiative and defeat enemies.

Understanding the Army’s Functions

When arguing the need for an Army tactical space program, it is necessary to understand the basis of the Army’s space functions. DoD Directive 5100.01, Functions of the Department of Defense and its Major Components, is the definitive document in this matter. It establishes the functions of each military service from a basis of U.S. law (Title 10 United States Code) and national-level guidance. This document identifies Army authorities for military space functions in two categories: those which are common to all military services (Army, Navy/Marine Corps and Air Force) and those which are specific to the Army.14  The functions related to the space domain and space systems are summarized as follows:

Common Military Service Functions

  • Organize, train, equip and provide space forces
  • Organize, train and equip forces to provide ISR to joint force commanders across all domains, including space
  • Operate organic spacecraft or space systems

Army Service Specific Functions

  • Interdict enemy space power through operations on or from the land
  • Provide support for space operations to enhance joint campaigns
  • Conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition

From this list, it is clear that the Army is expected to perform a broad array of space functions. Ultimately these functions are the basis to fill space-related capability gaps for multi-domain battle as we see fit.

The Barriers: Changing Paradigms

Some stakeholders throughout the DoD and U.S. Government space community might oppose an Army tactical space program. Many in the Army also would oppose such a program under the guise that building and operating space systems should not be an Army function. Critics could cite the expertise of the Air Force in this matter and the challenging fiscal environment the United States faces. These points represent rational concerns; however, examining each argument with a critical lens can expose gaps that the Army should fill.

The Army functions outlined in DoD Directive 5100.01 provide a strong mission area basis for an Army tactical space program, but this does not address the argument that other services could perform such functions on behalf of the Army. The U.S. Air Force has an indisputable leadership role in the space domain, but the responsibilities that come with this domain are vast. The Air Force simply does not have the resources to engineer all of the space dependencies across every component and function of the joint force, nor should it be expected to meet every service’s unique requirements.

The capability gaps of the Army are best filled by the Army, and allowing the Army to engineer tactical space systems within its existing program office construct will ensure maximum ground system interoperability. It would allow the Army to develop networks with profound land-to-space integration, create more resilience in multiple layers of ISR and balance the threat of electronic warfare systems across multiple domains.

The perceived high cost of space systems seems a formidable barrier to realization of an Army tactical space program. The truth is that space systems are no more expensive than anything else the Army acquires; the Kestrel Eye Block II satellite has a target production cost of less than $2 million.15  At this production cost, the Army could field substantial constellations of Kestrel Eye satellites at flexible price points ranging from $30 million to $100 million depending on needs. By comparison, the Army’s procurement spending for small tactical UAS platforms (RQ-7 and RQ-11) was $87.2 million in fiscal year 2016 and $320.6 million in FY 17,16  a substantial cost when considering the electronic warfare vulnerabilities of these systems.

The lack of tactical level space integration also may be costing the Army in terms of significant waste. A prudent example of this is evidenced by the failure of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program. The Army’s recent decision to stop the purchase of WIN-T terminals after spending $6 billion was guided in part by its vulnerable satellite links.17  In addition, the Army recognized that its fixed communications terminals are susceptible to electronic warfare and kinetic targeting, and did not move rapidly on the battlefield.18

The $6 billion question is, would designing WIN-T in parallel with a tailored space architecture have prevented this failure? I maintain that an Army tactical space program would be able to mitigate such issues by extending flexible space domain solutions to ground systems like these.

Win in a Complex World

Potential adversaries have developed a wide range of capabilities to attack the premises of domain superiority, particularly in space and through the electromagnetic spectrum. They seek to defeat the United States’ will to fight by degrading our ability to deploy and employ land forces to confront them. Modernizing the Army’s space capabilities will posture the United States to confront this threat and deter aggressive actions.

The creation of an Army tactical space program will equip Army space forces to become a key contributor on the combined arms team and posture for the multi-domain battle. We must create concepts that drive the way and means to fill the capability gaps the Army has identified. Experimentation with SMDC-ONE, SNaP and Kestrel Eye represents the first step in an important evolution of space capabilities. An Army tactical space program can leverage this progress and posture the Army to win in a complex world.

Author: Capt. Ryan Stephenson is a recent graduate of Training with Industry at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory where he embedded with a small-satellite flight demonstration program. He has completed several assignments with the 1st Space Brigade and U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.

U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Multi-Domain Battle: Combined Arms for the 20th Century, Feb. 24, 2017,


3 David G. Perkins, “Multi-Domain Battle, the Advent of Twenty-First Century Warfare,” Military Review, November 2017,

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 U.S. Space Command, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm Assessment, January 1992, George Washington University National Security Archive,

7 Department of Defense, “PLA Modernizes Its Military Training Program,” information report, June 23, 1995,

8 U.S. Army TRADOC.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 The chart is so named because its highlighted priority list resembles the shape of the state of Oklahoma. The chart is an Unclassified-FOUO document.

13 U.S. Army TRADOC.

14 Department of Defense, Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components, Department of Defense Directive 5100.01, Dec. 21, 2010,

15 U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, “Kestrel Eye,” fact sheet,

16 Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller)/Chief Financial Officer, Program Acquisition Cost by Weapon System, May 2017,, pg. 1-5.

17 Sandra Erwin, “Army Seeks Fixes to Vulnerable Satellite Communications,” Space News, Sept. 28, 2017,

18 Colin Clark and Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Army Plans to Halt WIN-T Buy; Shuffle Network $$,” Breaking Defense, Sept. 27, 2017, http://