Meet the Newest Branch of the Military, The Space Force

Meet the Newest Branch of the Military, The Space Force

( – The US hasn’t always been quick to restructure its military as technology progresses. For example, while the Royal Air Force was founded in 1918, the US Army Air Corps remained part of the Army until it became the US Air Force (USAF) in 1947.

Nobody’s going to accuse us of missing the next step forward, though. In late 2019, the US became the only nation to have a separate Space Force.

The USAF has been dealing with warfare in space for decades. Star Wars is science fiction, but modern warfare still relies on control of space. Guided weapons and modern communications need the GPS satellite network. Surveillance satellites provide military commanders with vital intelligence, and early warning radar installations scan space to alert us to incoming missiles. Without these systems, we’d struggle to defend ourselves or fight a war.

Space Command Was In Demand

Initially, space systems were controlled by different branches of the USAF. To help them work together more efficiently, they were centralized into USAF Space Command in 1982. That worked for a while, but increasingly, Space Command was supporting other branches of the military as well as the Air Force.

Eventually, the decision was made to transition Space Command into an independent military service. That happened as a result of the signing of the United States Space Forces Act with funding coming from part of the 2020 defense authorization bill, and on December 20, 2019, it officially became the United States Space Force (USSF).

Small but Growing

With just 2,500 active duty personnel on the books, the Space Force is the smallest branch of the armed services. That number will grow.

Around 16,000 USAF airmen are assigned to the force, and as the new service builds its management systems, they’ll be offered the chance to transfer. So far, there are 23 operational units based across California, Colorado and Florida.

Currently, higher-level USSF management is handled by the Department of the Air Force, which now manages both services just as the Department of the Navy manages the Navy and Marine Corps.

According to its doctrine, the Space Force has three main responsibilities:

  • Preserve freedom of action
  • Enable joint lethality and effectiveness
  • Provide independent options

To meet these responsibilities, it has a range of assets available. It can launch into space with Atlas V rockets, capable of launching satellites and inspecting, maintaining or repairing existing ones. It can send and receive information from space using satellites and ground-based radar, plus provide weather and target information to other military services.

The Space Force is commanded by the Chief of Space Operations, who’s located in the Pentagon and is one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General John W. Raymond serves as the first Chief of Space Operations.

A new and unique military service, the USSF will change over time as new technologies appear and the military learns more about space-based warfare. What matters most is that the US already has troops guarding the final frontier.

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