The US Space Force is conducting exercises simulating combat operations in orbit.

The US Space Force has just completed a major joint exercise in which participants participated in a simulated orbital combat.

The exercise, dubbed Space Flag 22-3, has been running since August 2018. From August 8 to 19 at Shriver Space Force Base in Colorado. Approximately 120 Space Force personnel from several US Space Force delta zones, along with Air Force and US Army counterparts, took part in the exercise, according to a Space Force statement. (will open in a new tab). The training was conducted by the training and education component of the Space Force, the Space Training and Readiness Command (STAR ​​Command or STARCOM).

Space Flag 22-3 introduced realistic learning experiences that “forced players to consider complex astrodynamics when maneuvering and operating during simulated combat operations in orbit” in a “contested, degraded and restricted environment,” the statement said.

On the subject: US Space Force creates a new unit to track “threats in orbit”

“I really enjoyed watching the mission plan of our soldiers, airmen and guards, and then fighting real threats to space capabilities,” said the US Army colonel. This is stated in a statement by the commander of the 1st Space Brigade, Donald Brooks.

According to the statement, Space Flag 22-3 offered trainees the opportunity to “improve combat tactics in the areas of space domain awareness, intelligence, warning and surveillance, navigational warfare, orbital warfare, and satellite communications” using a variety of simulations, both live and virtual.

Members of SPACE FLAG 22-3 pose for a group photo at Shriver Space Force Base, Colorado, August. 8, 2022. (Image credit: US Space Force/Judy Tomic)

The exercise was the first Department of Defense space exercise to be accredited as a joint national training opportunity. This designation applies to activities that offer members of the armed forces a realistic combat training environment with “adaptive and robust opposing force” that provides “high-quality feedback,” according to the United States Joint Forces Command. (will open in a new tab).

Space Flag 22-3 also marked the first participation in the exercise of the Space Force’s 5th Electromagnetic Warfare Squadron. The unit, based at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, is tasked with providing US Space Command with “combat-ready electromagnetic warfare forces” to “defend and defend the global operations of the US and its allies,” according to a Space Force fact sheet. (will open in a new tab).

The types of threats modeled in Space Flag 22-3 have become a major concern for the Space Force and the Pentagon. Many new space-based weapons have been developed and tested in recent years, ranging from non-destructive effects such as jamming GPS satellites or laser “dazzlers” that can blind spy satellites to destructive ones.

Those destructive capabilities include anti-satellite missiles and far more exotic technologies, such as powerful microwave weapons that can burn out a spacecraft’s electronics, or chemical sprayers that can contaminate a satellite’s moving surfaces or permanently obscure its optical sensors, according to the report. (will open in a new tab) published by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

Graphic from the US National Air and Space Intelligence Center showing the many ways in which satellites can attack each other. (Image credit: NASIK)

There is also growing concern about so-called “surveillance satellites” that can maneuver in close proximity to other spacecraft and “stalk” them. The Pentagon called the use of these satellites “irresponsible behavior.”

In 2021, Deputy Chief of the Space Forces for Space Operations Gen. David D. Thompson says US satellites are under attack (will open in a new tab) “every single day” from non-destructive effects such as jamming, laser blinding, or cyber-attacks, which can cut off communication with the satellite or disrupt its control.

As these types of threats continue to spread, the Space Force will no doubt continue to expand its training to be ready to counter them.

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