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Missile warning operations for allies priority for US Space Forces Korea

Aug. 30, 2023 - 18:43 By Ji Da-gyum
From right: South Korea Air Force Space Operation Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Kim Jong-ha, US Space Forces Korea Deputy Commander Maj. Charles Taylor and US Space Forces Korea Senior Enlisted Leader Master Sgt. Shawn Stafford speak to media at Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province on Wednesday. (Photo - The Korea Herald)

OSAN AIR BASE, Gyeonggi Province – The newly established United States Space Forces Korea has taken up the vital role of being the watchful eye and strategic compass of the US military and South Korea, the deputy commander said Wednesday. The essential responsibility is carried out through the operation of cutting-edge space assets, which facilitate the adept tracking of adversary activities in times of peace and the precise identification and targeting of an enemy in the event of contingencies.

The United States Space Forces Korea, primarily responsible for managing space-based assets and detecting as well as tracking missile launches, was formally established in December 2022 amid escalating missile threats from North Korea.

Among the diverse mission areas that the new component will prioritize, missile warning operations take center stage. This role involves in-theater near-real-time detection and alerting of ballistic missile launches.

Even more significant is the establishment of the US Space Forces Korea, as it has accelerated the collection and distribution of information, ultimately empowering the leadership of the US Forces Korea to swiftly and accurately assess the situation.

“By becoming an actual component, we now have direct conduits and seats at higher tables. We now have more direct access to the top leadership because we're lateral with the other various components,” Maj. Charles Taylor, deputy commander of US Space Forces Korea, said during a group interview at the headquarters of the 7th Air Force in Osan.

“So while we do have a small footprint and it was a pretty seamless transition, the assets are the same, the posturing is the same. We now have higher access to the higher leadership to better inform them to make decisions regarding operations.”

The establishment of US Space Forces Korea represents a strategic response to the increasing airborne threat posed by North Korea and the growing recognition of space as a distinct domain of warfare.

North Korea has been actively pursuing the development of more maneuverable missiles with varying ranges, aiming to enhance their survivability and incapacitate the missile defense systems of both South Korea and the US.

“We have an adversarial presence north of us. And so, it is upon us to provide that expertise, once again integrated and synchronized with all components within this AOR (area of responsibility). Then lastly, We provide that planning and employment expertise to deter, defend and defeat the threats in the Korean Peninsula,” Maj. Taylor said.

“So essentially, we provide space capabilities and personnel to meet the needs of the warfighter."

The major also emphasized the significant role that US Space Forces Korea plays in the broader context of multidomain integration. This integration involves the seamless coordination of operations across various domains of warfare, encompassing land, air, sea, space and cyberspace.

Space-based assets, including satellites and space-based sensors, play a pivotal role by supplying crucial information for situational awareness across multiple domains. These assets offer real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data, ultimately improving decision-making and operational planning.

Within this framework, Taylor highlighted that the primary focus of US Space Forces Korea in South Korea is to advance space domain awareness — military capability encompassing the detection, warning, characterization, attribution and prediction of threats. This initiative involves tracking and identifying satellites, spacecraft, debris and other objects in Earth's orbit, while also analyzing their movements, behaviors and potential threats.

"Regardless if it's an armistice or in conflict, it's been said space domain awareness is key," Taylor said, further highlighting that this remains a top priority for US Forces Korea.

He underscored the critical nature of space domain awareness.

"It's creating that common operating picture for the commanders in any given situation and at any given time."

Members further elaborated that the creation of the United States Space Forces Korea stands as a crucial countermeasure to North Korea's ongoing endeavors to develop space capabilities, exemplified by their persistent efforts to launch a spy satellite into orbit.

“One of the reasons why the Space Force was established was the need to protect and defend our space capabilities," Master Sgt. Shawn Stafford, US Space Forces Korea senior enlisted leader, told the media.

"We're always looking at the latest advancements of any sort of adversarial capability, and then posturing ourselves as a Space Force to be able to provide the data that's necessary for our warfighters throughout all phases of conflict.”

In the face of adversaries likewise augmenting their capabilities, apprehensions naturally arise. However, US Space Forces Korea is committed to consistently integrating emerging space-related threats into its strategic planning and operational endeavors.

"It's paramount that we stay vigilant for potential threats," Taylor said.