A virtual exercise at Schriever Space Force Base in Colorado saw the Space Force test the resilience of America’s satellite network against the growing threat of Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons. The exercise spanned ten days and saw one group simulating an aggressive near-peer adversary with space capabilities pitted against the US satellite network. Simulated threats included both kinetic anti-satellite interceptor missiles and various electronic warfare threats such as jamming. It was the 13th “Space Flag” exercise of its kind since 2017 and the third to involve personnel from allied countries like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was present during the exercise, told the press that:
“It happens in rooms like that…people at a relatively junior level in many cases. Collaborating and thinking through challenges and trying to figure out concepts that seem to make sense and discarding ideas that go astray.”
The exercise came shortly after Russia’s November 15th anti-satellite test which Space Force General David Thompson described as “concerning” but “not a surprise”. Following years of failed attempts, Russian missiles managed to hit a defunct Russian satellite. It is estimated that around 1,500 pieces of space debris were created due to the satellite’s destruction.
The US military had long been concerned about the growing threat of peer anti-satellite capabilities; a 2019 report from the Defense Intelligence Agency found that both China and Russia “view counterspace capabilities as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness” and have been reorganizing their armed forces accordingly. These capabilities span multiple categories such as cyber-warfare capabilities, electronic warfare capabilities, in-orbit weapon systems, ground based energy weapons and ground based anti-satellite missiles. Each of these comes with unique threats to the resilience of the American satellite network.
Increasing concern on this front will likely mean more “Space Flag” type exercises in the future.