In Brief
The Space Aggressor squadrons train other military troops for war in space and determine how to best keep space assets like satellites secure. Although it may sound like science fiction, the threat of extraterrestrial conflict is serious.

Extraterrestrial Conflict

Right now, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains of the American West, there are two teams of Air Force specialists preparing to defend America’s interests — in space. They are the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron (26th SAS) and the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (527th SAS), and their job consists of training the rest of the military for any possible contingency involving extraterrestrial combat and creating strategies to defend the security of any U.S. interests in space.

In other words, they play the role of the bad guys on a potentially intergalactic scale, “attacking” and provoking U.S. troops in mock space battles — as foreign countries and any other hostile power looking to threaten America in space. Space Aggressors train troops to make strategic use of space resources, for example by engaging in “brute force jamming,” which uses satellite networks to transmit signals to make any original message unintelligible to outsiders. However, they also train U.S. forces to fight without space resources, such as GPS and satellite communications, to ensure that they can competently fight using inertial navigation systems, compasses, and maps.

“We study threats to the space realm, either coming from space or based on land,” 26th SAS chief of training Captain Christopher Barnes told Seeker. “If we can’t directly replicate them with hardware, then we figure out if there’s a software solution or some way we can train people to the point where they can fight through them, if they have to, in a conflict.”

Security In Space

Space Aggressors launch simulated attacks and training exercises, but these space “games” are in response to security threats that are very serious. Modern American warfare and defense are almost completely reliant upon our GPS system, which basically consists of a chain of 31 satellites. In recent years, high-ranking officials in the U.S. military have argued that more preparation for space defense is essential, especially in light of the development of anti-satellite weapons in China and Russia. If taking out satellites effectively renders our troops helpless, it is a smart strategy for enemies to adopt.

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Furthermore, the threat would stretch far beyond the battlefield, as Ed Morris, the executive director of the Office of Space Commerce, wrote in the report, A Day Without Space: Economic and National Security Ramifications: “If you think it is hard to get work done when your Internet connection goes out at the office, imagine losing that plus your cell phone, TV, radio, ATM access, credit cards, and possibly even your electricity.”

The threat of warfare and aggression in space — and the need to prepare for it — has been broadly recognized all over the world. An international group of lawyers is now drawing up the first body of law to be applied in space. Based largely on existing principles of international law, the work that results from the coalition’s efforts will be called Manual on International Law Applicable to Military Uses of Outer Space (MILAMOS).

How it will apply to Earth’s various nations is as yet undecided, but for it to work, nations like the United States will have to choose to participate. Much like the United Nations, without participation and commitment from member states, international law — whether applied on Earth or in space — is unlikely to prove effective.