Saltzman: Space Force investing $340 million in FY24 to test and train Guardians

Saltzman: Space Force investing $340 million in FY24 to test and train Guardians
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U.S. Space Force Lt. Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Operations, Cyber and Nuclear, speaks during the 7th Annual Air Force Association Schriever Space Futures Forum at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., Nov. 19, 2021. (U.S. Space Force photo by Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman)

WASHINGTON — The Space Force is asking Congress to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in fiscal 2024 on new infrastructure that will be used to train Guardians for conflict in space, according to the service’s top uniformed official.

“We are developing an operational test and training infrastructure that will be the backbone of Space Force readiness as Guardians prepare for a high-intensity fight,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, adding that the service would be requesting $340 million to fund the effort.

Saltzman, who previewed the launch of the operational test and training infrastructure, or OTTI, during a roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon in January, explained that the funding would buy equipment like new simulators and test ranges to prepare soldiers for how to react if a space-based conflict breaks out.

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The new OTTI will enable Guardians to “validate” tactics against a realistic peer adversary, he said, pointing to the service’s recent Black Skies training exercise that included “live fire” events like satellite jamming. Officials have said other training missions will drill down into topics like orbital and cyber warfare.

Saltzman said he thinks the $340 million request is “sufficient” for this year because officials “have a lot of studies to do to make sure we’re building the right kind of ranges and the right kind of simulators, and we’re learning as we go a little bit.”

The Space Force is still sorting out how to structure many of its priorities, including a plan to field a proliferated constellation of missile warning and tracking satellites across orbits. Saltzman said ongoing analysis prompted the service to cut plans for one Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) satellite, reasoning that the service settled on a “two-by-two” plan, meaning two satellites in geosynchronous orbit and two in polar orbit as opposed to an original goal for three in GEO. 

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The general said the cut will not lead to gaps in coverage and that the costly Next-Gen OPIR satellites mostly serve as a hedge against technical risks associated with transitioning to the new proliferated architecture. 

Other key initiatives for the service will be ramping up space launch, Saltzman testified. The service wants to put money toward five additional satellite launches in FY24 over the 10 budgeted for this fiscal year, according to the service’s budget documents. During remarks delivered at the McAleese defense budget conference today, Saltzman said the service will request $99 million in FY24 and over $1 billion across the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) to develop an “updated space launch range of the future.”

Saltzman said during his SASC testimony that systems could be deployed to track objects like the infamous Chinese balloon the Pentagon alleges was being used for surveillance. However, he made clear that his eyes, and those of the Space Force, should be fixed on the heavens. 

“They call it near space,” he said, “but I like to call it far air.”