Space support key to warfighters|
by Senior Master Sgt. Bob Blauser
U.S. Central Command Air Forces-Forward Public Affairs
7/10/2006 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Supporting warfighters on the ground is the overarching mission of everyone deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. Carrying out this earthly mission from thousands of miles above the ground, though, is a responsibility coordinated by the Combined Air Operations Center here.
"We're focused on providing space support to any operation throughout the theater," said Col. John Hyten, director of space forces for the CAOC. "We have deployed Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines with space expertise to ensure that the power of space is brought to bear in line with the timing and tempo required by commanders in the field."
Space support requests -- categorized as communications and weather, space protection, precision navigation and timing, and overhead non-imaging infrared -- are similar to air support requests, the colonel said. With air support requests, specific airborne effects are requested, such as close-air support. With SSRs, a space effect is requested instead.
When commanders in the field need space support that is not already being provided, they submit a space support request to the CAOC, which is supported by a small theater integration cell.
"This cell coordinates with deployed space troops and experts back in the United States to ensure the right capabilities are available to support the fight," Colonel Hyten said.
As an example, a recent SSR was generated to have the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., immediately notify field forces in Southwest Asia of changes to the Global Positioning System satellite constellation. During June, this SSR produced three urgent electronic messages following GPS satellite anomalies. Since forces rely on GPS to send munitions directly to targets, these adjustments prevented bombs from missing the targets in response actions to terrorist attacks and prevented collateral damage.
The effects created with SSRs are focused on delivering specific capabilities from space to fielded forces engaged in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Maj. Mark Guerber, chief of the combat operations space cell.
"We may not provide the whole effect," the major said, "but in terms of a GPS-aided munition, we provided the precision that allowed us to destroy the target; therefore, we contributed to the overall effect of precision strike."
Colonel Hyten stressed that space's role is not merely focused on integrating air and space, but rather integrating space with any air, ground or maritime operation in any theater.
"There's not a military operation that takes place in the world today where space is not fully integrated," Colonel Hyten said. "Many military members don't even realize it. All they know is that, ‘This machine I have in my hands tells me where I am, and this machine lets me communicate when I need to.' All they need to know is that it works, but it's space's job to make sure it works."
In order to highlight space power contributions, the public affairs team in the CAOC has begun including space data on their airpower summary. The data for the month is now included in the summary on the first Thursday of the following month. It includes the number of theater SSRs for operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as the number of effects delivered.
"Space power can make a difference in the success or failure of nearly every military operation in Iraq and Afghanistan today," Colonel Hyten said. "Our forces today navigate with space support, communicate through satellites in space and characterize the battlefield with overhead assets, to name a few. We're glad to be able to share our contributions."