These 23 Air Force Missions Are Transferring to the Space Force

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Soldiers from the 25th Space Range Squadron reinstall a K-under feed on a ground multi-band terminal antenna.
Master Sgt. Steven Edmon, 25th Space Range Squadron mission assurance operations flight chief, left, and Tech. Sgt. Ryan Seamster, 25th SRS communication focal point noncommissioned officer in charge, reinstall a K-under feed on a ground multi-band terminal antenna, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Jan. 24, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Matthew Coleman-Foster)

The U.S. Air Force has identified 23 organizations and units with space-specific missions that will transition to the U.S. Space Force over the next six months, the service announced Tuesday.

The transfer applies to roughly 1,840 Air Force billets, which will not physically relocate -- nor will any of the people assigned to those units, officials said in a release.

"Building the U.S. Space Force represents a top priority for the Department of the Air Force," said Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett. "These mission transfers incorporate existing forces into the agile Space Force, which stands ready to defend American and allied interests."

As the service implements the change, individuals will remain in the Air Force to preserve continuity, such as centralizing benefits. Officials in recent months have said those moving into the Space Force will retain their rank or grade and their pay under already-established promotion, pay and benefits systems in the Air Force.

Related: United States Space Force | Military.com

"In the coming months, and when appropriate provisions are in place as part of a separate process, military members who meet applicable criteria will be given the opportunity to volunteer to transfer to the Space Force," the release states. "If they choose not to transfer, they will remain in the Air Force and assigned to the Space Force unit until their normal assignment rotation is complete, at which time they will be moved to an assignment within the Air Force."

Here are the units moving into the Space Force (* indicates a partial mission transfer regarding the size of a flight, branch or division or above):

  • At Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado: 17th Test Squadron; National Security Space Institute; Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Detachment 4; 544th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group Staff & Detachment 5
  • At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio: 18th Intel Squadron; Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Sensors Directorate*; AFRL Research Lab Mission Execution*; Counter-Space Analysis Squadron; Space Analysis Squadron.
  • At Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado: 25th Space Range Squadron; 527th Space Aggressor Squadron; 705th Combat Training Squadron OL-A; 16th AF/Advanced Programs*; Detachment 1, USAF Warfare Center.
  • At Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico: AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate*; the AFRL Electro-Optical Division* (partially based at the base, but also in Maui, Hawaii); the Space Safety Division of the Air Force Safety Center.

Remaining units include: the 328th Weapons Squadron, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; 7th Intel Squadron* and 32nd Intel Squadron*, both at Fort Meade, Maryland; the 566th Intel Squadron* at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado; the 533rd Training Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and the AFRL Rocket Propulsion Division* at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Here's a look at other developments occurring throughout the Space Force and the military's space portfolio:

Space Fence Becomes Operational

On March 27, the USSF officially said its Space Fence radar system, located on Kwajalein Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands, is ready for use. The service declared initial operating capability, or IOC, for the system, which can "detect and track orbiting objects such as commercial and military satellites, depleted rocket boosters and space debris in low, medium, and geosynchronous Earth orbit" that will boost overall space awareness within the Space Surveillance Network (SSN).

As reported by Space News, the $1.5 billion radar can track very small objects, even some the size of a marble. Members of the 20th Space Control Squadron (SPCS), Detachment 4, at the Space Fence Operations Center in Huntsville, Alabama, can operate that system, which then feeds the data to the 18 SPCS at Vandenberg.

SSN tracking information can be found on www.space-track.org.

Disruptive Anti-Satellite Actions on the Rise

Disguising information and communications through GPS spoofing, jamming connections, and even dazzling -- or blinding satellites with lasers -- are all on the rise as more countries launch technologies into the space domain, according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies analysis.

Countries, including big players like the U.S., Russia and China, which are already running interference on one another in space, are gradually normalizing these non-kinetic ways to disrupt operations, according to the March 30 report, "Space Threat Assessment 2020."

Actions like dazzling "are an interesting form of attack [because] it could be used as part of a gray zone strategy for a country to try to stay below the threshold of ... conflict" without causing collateral damage, said Todd Harrison, director of both the Aerospace Security Project and Defense Budget Analysis at CSIS.

"Those are some of the areas that I feel that we're vulnerable to right now. They're also difficult to defend against," he told reporters during a briefing on the report. "Those are really concerning forms of attack, and we are seeing countries like Russia and China really double down their investments in those areas."

The report warned of increased co-orbital adversary activity, such as close inspection of satellites in geostationary orbit, and that "the rate of satellite jamming and spoofing incidents will only increase as these capabilities continue to proliferate and become more sophisticated in the coming years."

It follows another study released this week by the Secure World Foundation, which stated countries around the world should not discount that some bad actors may be stepping up both offensive and defensive measures in space.

"The evidence shows significant research and development of a broad range of kinetic (destructive) and non-kinetic counter-space capabilities in multiple countries," according to the annual Global Counterspace Capabilities study, as reported by Space News.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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