Technology

Space Force deploys its first squadron outside of the U.S.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — The newly shaped U.S. Space Force is deploying troops to an unlimited new frontier: the Arabian Peninsula. Space Force now has a squadron of 20 airmen stationed at Qatar’s Al-Udeid Air Base in its first overseas deployment.

The drive, pushed by President Donald Trump, represents the sixth department of the U.S. army and the first new army service since the creation of the Air Force in 1947.

It has provoked skepticism in Congress, satire on Netflix, and, with its uncannily related brand, “Star Trek” jokes about intergalactic battles.

Future wars could also be waged in outer area, however the Arabian Desert already noticed what army specialists dub the world’s first “space war” — the 1991 Desert Storm operation to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Today, the U.S. faces new threats in the area from Iran’s missile program and efforts to jam, hack and blind satellites.

“We’re starting to see other nations that are extremely aggressive in preparing to extend conflict into space,” Col. Todd Benson, director of Space Force troops at Al-Udeid, informed The Associated Press. “We have to be able to compete and defend and protect all of our national interests.”

In a swearing-in ceremony earlier this month at Al-Udeid, 20 Air Force troops, flanked by American flags and large satellites, entered Space Force. Soon a number of extra will be a part of the unit of “core space operators” who will run satellites, monitor enemy maneuvers and attempt to avert conflicts in area.

Mideast US Space Force
In this photograph launched by the U.S. Air Force, Col. Todd Benson, the U.S. Air Force Central Command director of area forces, middle, leads airmen by their enlistment ceremony as they turned members of the Space Force at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, September 1, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Kayla White/AP


“The missions are not new and the people are not necessarily new,” Benson mentioned.

That troubles some American lawmakers who view the department, with its projected drive of 16,000 troops and 2021 funds of $15.4 billion, as an arrogance undertaking for Mr. Trump forward of the November presidential election.

Concerns over the weaponization of outer area are many years outdated. But as area turns into more and more contested, army specialists have cited the want for an area corps dedicated to defending American pursuits.

Threats from international rivals have grown since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, when the U.S. army first relied on GPS coordinates to inform troops the place they had been in the desert as they pushed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait.

Benson declined to call the “aggressive” nations his airmen will monitor and doubtlessly fight. But the determination to deploy Space Force personnel at Al-Udeid follows months of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran.


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Hostilities between the two international locations, ignited by Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from Iran’s nuclear accord, got here to a head in January when U.S. forces killed a high Iranian basic. Iran responded by launching ballistic missiles at American troopers in Iraq.

This spring, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard launched its first satellite tv for pc into area, revealing what specialists describe as a secret army area program. The Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iran’s area company, accusing it of creating ballistic missiles below the cowl of a civilian program to set satellites into orbit.

World powers with extra superior area packages, like Russia and China, have made extra threatening progress, U.S. officers contend. Last month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that Russia and China had been creating weapons that might knock out U.S. satellites, doubtlessly scattering harmful particles throughout area and paralyzing cell telephones and climate forecasts, in addition to American drones, fighter jets, plane carriers and even nuclear weapon controllers.

“The military is very reliant on satellite communications, navigation and global missile warning,” mentioned Capt. Ryan Vickers, a newly inducted Space Force member at Al-Udeid.

American troops, he added, use GPS coordinates to trace ships passing by strategic Gulf passageways “to make sure they’re not running into international waters of other nations.”


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The Strait of Hormuz, the slim mouth of the Persian Gulf by which 20% of the world’s oil flows, has been the scene of a sequence of tense encounters, with Iran seizing boats it claims had entered its waters. One disrupted sign or miscalculation may spark off a confrontation.

For years, Iran has allegedly jammed satellite tv for pc and radio indicators to dam foreign-based Farsi media shops from broadcasting into the Islamic Republic, the place radio and tv stations are state-controlled.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has warned that industrial plane cruising over the Persian Gulf may expertise interference and communications jamming from Iran. Ships in the area have additionally reported “spoofed” communications from unknown entities falsely claiming to be U.S. or coalition warships, in line with American authorities.

“It’s not that hard to do, but we’ve seen Iran and other countries become pretty darn efficient at doing it on a big scale,” mentioned Brian Weeden, an Air Force veteran and director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, which promotes peaceable makes use of of outer area. “There’s a concern Iran could interfere with military broadband communications.”

Mideast US Space Force
In this photograph launched by the U.S. Air Force, Capt. Ryan Vickers stands for a photograph to show his new service tapes after taking his oath of workplace to switch from the U.S. Air Force to the U.S. Space Force at Al-Udeid Air Base, Qatar, September 1, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Kayla White/AP


Responding to questions from the AP, Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman at Iran’s mission to the United Nations, mentioned “Iran will not tolerate interference in our affairs, and in accordance with international law, will respond to any attacks against our sovereignty.” He added that Iran has confronted quite a few cyber assaults from the U.S. and Israel.

Failing a global settlement that bars typical arms, like ballistic missiles, from capturing down area property, the area will solely change into extra militarized, mentioned Daryl Kimball, the govt director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association. Russia and China have already created area drive models and the Revolutionary Guard’s sudden curiosity in satellite tv for pc launches has heightened U.S. considerations.

Still, American officers insist the new Space Force deployment goals to safe U.S. pursuits, not set off an extraterrestrial arms race.

“The U.S. military would like to see a peaceful space,” Benson, the director of Space Force troops stationed in Qatar, mentioned. “Other folks’ behavior is kind of driving us to this point.”

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