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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — When most people think of the Army, they do not necessarily think about its space-enabled capabilities, nor are they aware that the Army has a specially trained space cadre, said the leader of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command.
In remarks made to members of the international space community, industry and defense leaders April 11 at the 35th Space Symposium, Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, USASMDC/ARSTRAT’s commanding general, said the Army has the greatest number of space-enabled systems among all the services.
“Whether a Soldier needs to shoot, move or communicate, there is typically some type of space platform contributing to how we do that,” he said.
Leaders from throughout the command as well as West Point, joined Dickinson in a panel discussion focusing on how the Army’s space capabilities apply to every Army and joint force mission set, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“USASMDC/ARSTRAT provides the Army and the joint force capabilities that enable military use of the space domain,” he said, describing capabilities from Army astronauts on the International Space Station to Army Space Support Teams who provide space expertise to forces operating on the ground.
Panel member U.S. Army astronaut Lt. Col. Anne McLain opened the discussion with a recorded video presentation from the International Space Station and talked about how the ISS was instrumental in studying the planet.
Having spent most of her career conducting low reconnaissance flying a Kiowa Warrior, McClain said she could confirm that “the ISS is the ultimate reconnaissance platform.”
The ability to receive and share intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information as well as communicate using space-based platforms is critical in both military operations and disaster relief efforts.
Panelist Richard De Fatta, director, SMDC’s Future Warfare Center, provided information on two space-enabled systems designed to support communication and information needs. The first system, Fly-Away kits, was developed to address command, control and communication challenges encountered by disaster response teams. Another system, the Domestic Operations Awareness and Assessment Response Tool, or DAART, provides situational awareness to leaders through a web-based program that enables disaster relief forces to have a common operating picture by sharing photos, area assessments and written information.
“There’s a commonality between the use of space to support traditional military operations and space in support of civil authorities,” De Fatta said. “They both need effective communication and command and control.”
Another commonality is the need to track and locate those participating in a military operation or a disaster relief effort.
Mark Utz, the command’s Force Tracking Management Center chief, described how defense force tracking capabilities provided by SMDC can be used to support civil authorities.
“Force tracking provides military and civilian decision makers near real-time location and status of forces and can be employed on ground and air systems,” Utz said.
First, position and status information from beacon transmitters is collected by military or commercial satellites. The reports are then received and processed by the Mission Management Center and disseminated to operations centers or command posts for display on digital maps. Recent uses include tracking hurricane hunter aircraft during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and supporting firefighters during California’s wildfires in January.
Like the command’s force tracking mission, the organization providing space support reaches well beyond Army formations.
Army Space Support Teams from the 1st Space Brigade Bridge support planning and operations for combatant commands at theater level as well as humanitarian assistance/disaster relief efforts in their local communities. Multi-component ARRSTs bridge the gap between the technical effects of space and the practical use of the effects on the ground.
Panel member Col. Eric Little, 1st Space Brigade commander, explained that in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, ARSSTs quickly provide some of the first releasable satellite imagery of the affected area. During wildfires, they can also provide awareness of hot spots or fire perimeters using Overhead Persistent Infrared imagery, or OPIR, to better guide those fighting the wildfires.
The final panelist, Lt. Col. Diana Loucks, director of the Space and Missile Defense Command Research and Analysis Center at the United States military Academy at West Point, closed out the discussion by explaining the space-related educational programs and student research opportunities available at West Point to prepare future Army leaders for increasingly space-enabled careers.
Dickinson summed up the panel presentations and reiterated the importance of Army space assets.
“I hope we were able to show you that our space Soldiers not only support military operations but also provide a great capability in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” he said. “We have great Soldiers from all components of the U.S. Army doing those missions each and every day.”
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