The Case For Us To Have a Space Force

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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39 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    We have at least two perfectly capable branches of the military to handle things above the atmosphere; the Navy, and if we are still taking them seriously*, the Air Force.

    *I remain of the opinion that the USAF is pointless and the Navy could handle their mission just fine.Report

    • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      @oscar-gordon Unsurprisingly most of the USAF around here hold the corresponding opinion about the Navy, when it comes to space stuff at least.

      (That said, one of my friends is both former Captain in the USAF and married to a Navy officer, and his opinion converges with yours. But he’s always been the self-deprecating type.)Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Maribou says:

        While science fiction writers have a mixed record on predicting the future, for a space force with actual people, the ratio of “navy in space” stories versus “air force in space” is what? 10:1? 100:1? If it’s drones and autonomous systems, who runs ’em doesn’t matter much. For the foreseeable future, though, platforms staffed with people are going to look an awful lot like ballistic missile submarine duty.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:


          The Air Force certainly has the whole ‘flying high’ thing down, but at the end of the day, if you want to put more than a 5 man team into a ship and cast it out into an incredible hostile environment, you want sailors.

          The Navy already has all the institutions and training that allow men and women to live a long time in extremely close quarters and to develop the habits and skills* needed to fight and survive as a ship. There isn’t a lot of difference in keeping a ship air tight versus water tight (and modern Navy surface ships, not just subs, can be made air tight in the event of an NBC attack). And fighting a ship is a whole lot different from fighting a small craft. The air force can’t even claim to have a premium on fighting in 3D space, because the Navy has sub commanders and pilots and commanders whose battle space is wholly above and below the surface.

          The Air Force would have to develop all of that from the ground up.

          * Fire fighting, flood control, damage control, etc. Everyone on a ship participates in these kinds of things. Also other skills like launching and recovering small craft, be it a fighter or a shuttle.Report

          • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            But so far at least, space seems to mostly be a matter of video-game like activities and the support thereof…

            And my informal straw poll of people I know puts more gamers in the Air Force than any other branch.

            (Y’all know I mostly just really like reading you talk about how great the Navy is, right? Like, if I had to pick a branch for *anything*, I’d pick the Navy… I just don’t get much room to say so in USAF country.)Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

              Air Force got in early on drones, because if there is one thing the USAF is good at doing, it’s avoiding hard work. 😉

              Navy is catching up on that front, but they wanted drones that could be launched and recovered from more than just a carrier, and they wanted submersible drones as well.Report

          • jason in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Plus, we’ll need a space navy to provide transportation for space marines.Report

          • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I await the inevitable calls for saving money by buying one fighter/bomber/space plane then can be used by all the services…the F-135 universal stealth space capable, carrier borne, air/space superiority, ground/moon attack, asteroid interdictor, all weather/solar storm capable fighter. It will be able to take off from a dirt strip used by Marines and operate up LEO or even the lagrange points with drop tanks. Oxygen optional depending on mission.

            I just thought of it and its already a billion over budget and a year behind schedule.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Michael Cain: For the foreseeable future, though, platforms staffed with people are going to look an awful lot like ballistic missile submarine duty.

          Probably more like SSGN missions than SSBN ones, to be nitpickyReport

        • Kolohe' in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Michael Cain: For the foreseeable future, though, platforms staffed with people are going to look an awful lot like ballistic missile submarine duty.

          Probably more like SSGN missions than SSBN ones, to be nitpicky.

          (Note to editors/mods – my comments under my normal gravatar linked email seem to mostly get sucked into a black hole lately)Report

          • Maribou in reply to Kolohe' says:

            Yeh, we’re really struggling with that, and it’s not just you at all, many comments a day go straight to moderated and have to be fished back out For No Reason. A lot of them reappear once we find them in pending and approve them (eg your first version of this comment), which since it’s manual sometimes no one is near a computer at that exact second to do it, so there can be considerable lag….

            But are you also still seeing some that just outright disappear and never come back? That was happening up til a few days ago, for sure, Will did some stuff and we thought it got fixed; but if it hasn’t… I should make sure he knows about it.Report

            • Kolohe in reply to Maribou says:

              It was a few days ago when they disappeared completely, but last night and this morning comments have all shown up, but on a delay (but which also precludes using the 5 min edit function, fwiw)


              • Maribou in reply to Kolohe says:

                @kolohe Yeah, the delay is “until one of the less than half-dozen people who can approve comments either reloads the page, gets a notif, or thinks “hm, I should check and see if any comments are hung up”. It sucks that that eats the edit window though.

                It’s way more annoying for you guys than us, I am aware. But at this precise moment, Will’s doing some other server-side stuff that precludes aggressively trying to fix it (any more than he already did to get it to stop eating the comments totally).Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Maribou says:

                To be clear, I don’t think this problem is urgent or important (Zeroth world problem?) but I wasn’t sure if y’all were aware.Report

  2. I do think it’s a joke because we have had a Space Command component for 35+ years, and it like the rest of the military has become more and more joint force as time goes on. The president cannot unilaterally create another branch of the military, congress has to do so both in structure and funding. While important to stay ahead of the threats listed, we can do so within current structure, not adding yet another bureaucratic layer to the already over-bloated DOD. Hard pass and actively oppose.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Andrew Donaldson says:

      Andrew Donaldson: I do think it’s a joke because we have had a Space Command component for 35+ years, and it like the rest of the military has become more and more joint force as time goes on.

      This. +1. etc etc.

      Industry insiders reports that 37.4% of all Buzz Lightyear toys ever sold have gone to people receiving them as a going away gift after receiving orders to USSPACECOM, JFFC SGS, or JFFC SPACE

      More seriously, reviewing the history, it just occured to me a possible motivation for this Space Force malarkey. There’s been a battle between the DoD and the NSA for being the king cheese poobah in charge of “cyber” for well over a decade now. Recently, there’s been kinda of a peace treaty with the elevation of USCYBERCOM as a Unified Command. But previously a lot of the DoD side of cyber was put in USSTRATCOM – which is where USSPACECOM moved to after 9/11. So someone in the space side could now be trying to sprout bureacratic wings themselves and fly away from the STRATCOM nest.Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    If only someone here at Ordinary Times had written about this very thing thirteen months ago when the idea was first floated.

    Unmentioned yet anywhere is the need to defend the entire Earth from an extraterrestrial threat — I don’t mean aliens, but asteroids. Some space geeks and NASA types have talked about this a bit but there’s been no serious proposals advanced that I know of and certainly no concrete action taken.

    We know that from time to time the Earth is struck by asteroids and a sufficiently large or fast one could have devastating effects. Do we shoot ICBMs at it? Do we send oil drillers to drop nukes into its interior and listen to mawkish Aerosmith songs? I don’t know the answer, but it’s something that if we do have a space force, I’d like to see at least a focus group study and offer sober proposals. If those proposals require new technological innovation, so much the better – such innovations may well have other applications, hopefully peaceful ones.

    The odds of this happening in our lifetimes are low, to be sure, but we prepare elaborately for other low-odds, high-stakes events.Report

    • Boy, it’s been a long time since I looked through all the material that’s been written on the subject. The size and number of nuclear weapons required to either sufficiently fragment or change the orbit of objects up to the size of the dinosaur-killer have been worked out in painful detail and are quite manageable. On a small scale, the theory was tested by Deep Impact, with a good match. Delivering those bomb(s) is a bitch — a deep space mission, heavy payload, lots of delta-v in a relatively short time. A nuclear thermal rocket built and fueled in lunar orbit might do the job. Or an Orion-drive platform, same location.

      Most of these currently violate the Outer Space Treaty. And they would be bloody expensive. But none of them require New Physics, and would almost certainly work eventually. As 15-year-old me whined to my father when he got me up in the middle of the night in 1969 to watch the moon landing, “Dad, it’s just engineering.”Report

  4. Jesse says:

    Has anybody repeatedly asked any supporters of what taxes will have to be raised to pay for this?Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    FFS, Mattis

    And the orbitization of this solution in terms of institutionalizing forward momentum is very important.

    What in the name of James Tiberius does that even mean?!Report

  6. Troublesome Frog says:

    Worst case: Space Force becomes a real thing with a huge budget and we just pour money into it for nothing (or start an arms race in space with the Chinese).

    Probable case: DOD nods and slow-rolls the idea until Trump is out of office.

    Impossible but good case: We start allocating money for it and get used to the idea of pouring money on a DOD scale into space, then Trump leaves office and we reallocate all that money to NASA.Report