Space is a battlefield in many ways, and the military personnel and civilian contractors at Kirtland Air Force Base are at the forefront of the fight in the final frontier.
KAFB’s role within the U.S. Space Force, the newest branch of the Department of Defense, was one of the key topics discussed during the Kirtland Partnerships Committee’s annual meeting, which was held virtually Wednesday.
The KPC is a nonprofit organization of civic leaders that aims to preserve and expand Kirtland Air Force Base. Base and KPC leaders said that, as in years past, KAFB is estimated to have about a $7.6 billion boost to the local economy.
Since the Space Force was created less than a year ago, several missions based at Kirtland have transferred from the Air Force to the Space Force.
“We have key geographical locations across the planet, and frankly, none are any more important than Kirtland Air Force Base,” Lt. Gen. John Thompson, the commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, said during the event.
Kirtland missions that have at least partly transferred to the Space Force include the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, the Directed Energy Directorate’s Electro-Optics Division and the Air Force Safety Center — Space Safety Division, according to Kirtland’s website.
Kirtland’s Space Rapid Capabilities Office is also now a Space Force unit.
The goal of the Space Force is to handle threats in space. Because satellites play crucial roles in everything from protecting soldiers on far-away battlefields to helping you catch an Uber, Thompson said. And those assets are under a growing threat, he said.
“Countries like China and Russia are really aggressively pursuing systems with the ability to deny, degrade, disrupt or destroy our national assets on orbit,” Thompson said. “Those are assets, by the way, that are counted on not just by the Department of Defense, but are counted on by the civil and commercial communities day in and day out across the nation and our allies’ nations as well.”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., all spoke at the KPC event.
“I am always proud to highlight the important role that New Mexico plays in space,” Heinrich said during the meeting. “Kirtland Air Force Base, in particular, is a proven leader in the acquisition and development of some of our nation’s most advanced space capabilities.”
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