In an effort to build a larger, allied coalition as more hostile countries come into the space arena, the U.S. Air Force in 2019 will invite international partner applicants to train alongside airmen in their military space operations courses, the service's top civilian announced Wednesday.
In her speech at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said that, if the Air Force makes an effort to train and fly alongside foreign nations in undergraduate pilot training as well as on the battlefield, space missions from now on should be no different.
"For many years the Air Force has trained pilots and aircrew from allies around the world," Wilson said. "The U.S. hosts the Euro-NATO joint jet pilot training program at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. Afghans train at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia; the Singapore Air Force flies their own F-15s out of Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
"It's time to go farther," she said.
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The Air Force is adding two new courses to its National Security Space Institute located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, including one on "space situational awareness, for our partners and allies to learn more about collision avoidance, de-orbits and reentries," Wilson said.
"We will open more of our current advanced courses on national security space to military members of allied countries," she said. "Australia, Canada, and the UK currently attend. We will invite New Zealand, France, Germany, Japan and possibly others to come train with us."
The classes, Space 100 and Global Space Situational Awareness courses, will each have a particular focus. The 100 class, to be a roughly one-to-two week unclassified, introduction and overview of space operations, will spotlight orbital mechanics, launch, satellite operations, and space weather.
The Air Force said this course is not the same as undergraduate space training, or UST, which gives new Air Force officers an introduction into space operations but is taught at a "Top Secret" security clearance level.
Global SSA will be a three-week course that focuses on space surveillance: how space objects move, fall out of orbit and reenter the Earth's atmosphere. Partners will be trained on proper maneuverability and getting out of the way of an oncoming object to avoid collision.
The service will also expand its Space 200 and 300 classes. The 18-day 200 class, already open to the UK, Canada and Australia, will be open as a mid-career course to France, Germany, and Japan and will highlight space systems development and space power as it pertains to national security.
Space 300 will expand to include the "Five Eyes" partners: Australia, Canada, New Zealand,and the U.K., according to the Air Force.
The program is offered as a professional development course that addresses space acquisition and high-end capabilities at operational and strategic levels as it applies to a range of military missions. Students can expect the 15-day class to have a broad range of topics, from unclassified briefings all the way up to the "Top Secret" levels.
NSSI was created in 2004 under Air Force Space Command to provide space training to Air Force space professionals as well as the broader National Security Space community. The NSSI falls under the Air Force Institute of Technology, a component of Air University.
"We will strengthen our alliances and attract new partners, not just by sharing data from monitoring, but by training and working closely with each other in space operations," Wilson said. "Why now? Because we face a more competitive and dangerous international security environment than we have seen in decades.
"Russia and China are developing capabilities to disable our satellites," she said.
For example, according to the "Worldwide Threat Assessment" authored by National Intelligence Director Daniel Coats in February, Russia and China are well on their way to sending weapons capable of jamming or destroying U.S. military and commercial satellites into space, including some that may reach initial operational capability in the next few years.
"We will work with like-minded nations to preserve the ability to freely and safely operate in space," Wilson said. "We will work with our allies to improve operations, enhance deterrence, defend our vital national interests and prevail when called upon."
-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.