The U.S. Space Force so far hasn't seen a good plan for how rockets may someday deliver cargo around the world, according to a top general.
"I don't have a clear vision for what that looks like yet," Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, deputy chief of space operations for the Space Force, said on Friday while speaking during an Mitchell Institute event.
Saltzman was responding to recent reports that U.S. Transportation Command and SpaceX are currently studying how the military could one day deliver cargo to forward operating locations and other bases around the globe via reusable rockets in just minutes.
"It's not exactly the cheapest way to move stuff," Saltzman said. "But that's being looked at."
When asked how the military could "not make it look like it's an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile" launched by the U.S. or by an adversary, Saltzman replied, "I don't know."
"This is about coordination, norms of behavior, launch sites... there's probably several different techniques that could be used," he said. Experts have previously noted that the military would have to establish U.S.-approved launch sites, and that the rockets would need to follow a dedicated flight path to their destination.
There have been proposals over the years to use space lift to deliver much-needed supplies to troops, instead of large logistics hubs vulnerable to enemy attack. The pending venture would especially be helpful for those locations the military considers to be a victim of "the tyranny of distance" -- such as positions far away in the Pacific. As noted by Popular Mechanics, it takes a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft 12 hours to make a trip from California to Okinawa, Japan, whereas a rocket would take 30 minutes.
"I need rapid access to space," then-Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, head of Air Mobility Command, said in 2018. "Thirty minutes with 150 metric tons? [That's] less than the cost of [using and flying] a C-5 [Galaxy]."
If the U.S. prepositions cargo in space, Everhart said, it would free up shipments by air, land and sea.
Everhart said at the time that the concept could lead to cargo and port stations or a "floating island" in space that could house Humvees, ammunition, tactical equipment, building materials and other wartime supplies -- and would give the military a competing edge.
Saltzman said the Space Force is standing by to assist TRANSCOM throughout its study, and awaits results and applications.
"[Space Force] will be there to support in terms of organize, train and equip," he said. The general reiterated, "At this point, I have not seen a good [concept of operations] yet."
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.