Space force

US Space Force creates new unit to track ‘threats in orbit’

The United States Space Force has activated a new unit tasked with providing “critical intelligence on threat systems, alien intentions, and activities in the space domain.”

Pentagon leaders have said the creation of this new unit is key to shaping the future of the space force innovation and technology acquisition.

The new unit, known as Space Delta 18, will be responsible for identifying threats U.S. space assets, both kinetic and non-kinetic. “Kinetic” in this sense refers to threats that can physically damage or degrade US satellites and other assets, while “non-kinetic” generally refers to anti-satellite weapons that use directed energy, signal jamming, or other means to disrupt the operations of a satellite.

Related: New reports detail ongoing space threats and Russia raises concerns

Delta 18 will operate the National Space Intelligence Center (NSIC), a new intelligence facility based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Space Delta 18 will eventually be staffed with 345 civilian and military personnel, military officials said.

While the US Air Force has operated its own National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) at Wright-Patterson since 1993, Space Force leadership is pushing for its own dedicated space intelligence unit. Chief of Space Operations General John W. “Jay” Raymond first called for the creation of what became the new Delta 18 unit in 2020 (opens in a new tab) in order to “meet the anticipated demand for increased space intelligence at fundamental, tactical, operational and strategic levels”. Two existing NASIC Intelligence Squadrons will be transferred to the new NSIC.

At a ceremony marking the creation of the new unit, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said (opens in a new tab) Space Delta 18 and NSIC are key to driving innovation and development in space.

“As the Service Intelligence Center of the US Space Force, NSIC will be well positioned to support US and allied space decision makers at an absolutely critical time in the history of space development,” Haines said. “In the years to come, the environment will only become more contested. And as we move forward, the NSIC will be relied upon to produce and analyze space-related scientific and technical intelligence for the entire nation. .”

The need for such a space-based threat intelligence unit has been underscored in recent years as China’s and Russia’s anti-satellite capabilities have evolved. It was recently observed that a Chinese satellite had dragged a defunct navigation satellite (opens in a new tab) in a “graveyard orbit”, for example, while Russia conducted highly destructive anti-satellite tests who created hazardous orbital debris fields.

Russia was also jamming of GPS signals throughout its current invasion of Ukraine targeting the United States Navstar system satellites that provide the service.

“Make No Mistake”, Haines added (opens in a new tab) during the Delta 18 stand-up ceremony, “space today is a combat domain, and increasingly contested”.

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