This article was a submission to Cove Comp '23.
The question I get asked most frequently as the Headquarters 1st (Australian) Division Space Planner is: ‘What does space have to do with the Army?’ I love this question. My answer? Everything. Space enables us to navigate, shoot, communicate, target, conduct reconnaissance, track weather, and collect intelligence (to name a few).
The reality is that we rely on space every day – both in and out of Army. Using GPS to navigate? Space. Refuelling your car? Space. GPS-guided munitions? Space. Online banking? Space. In short, space is working hard for you, but it isn’t new – the launch of the first artificial satellite ‘Sputnik’ by the Soviet Union took place in 1957.
Space capabilities are vastly expanding with the rapid evolution of technology and human endeavour. In recent wars, allied forces enjoyed complete dominance in the space domain against Islamist terrorists and insurgents in the Middle East. In future wars involving great powers, friendly and enemy offensive and defensive actions in space will determine the competitive advantage – or disadvantage – of any force element conducting operations across the cooperation-to-conflict spectrum.
While having to fight in a severely degraded technical environment may be considered worst case scenario, that does not mean it’s not possible, or even probable. The key takeaway from this article is that effects in space – good and bad – will directly impact operations of the Land component of the Integrated Force, from Task Force to Combat Team and forward scout – and profoundly so.
Planning for Space. My role as the Division Space Planner is to plan and coordinate space effects to enable and protect the Land Force. What did I know about space before posting to the role? Admittedly, not a whole lot. With a Royal Australian Signals (RASIGS) background, my knowledge of satellite communications was sound, albeit limited to my experience as a troop commander.
The role was introduced to the HQ in January 2023 and is integrated into the Joint Fires and Effects branch. Working alongside various disciplines – both lethal and non-lethal, creating room and priority for space in planning is a new normal.
There are as many challenges as there are opportunities; how can space enable and support Fires? How can space effects be synchronised with other technical means to achieve the effect? How can Space Operations integrate and contribute to the Information Operations plan? Might space emerge as the ‘supported’ entity with other force elements ‘supporting’ for a particular phase of an operation?
It’s plausible to think that we might be required to apply kinetic and non-kinetic effects against an adversary with the primary purpose of preserving our freedom of manoeuvre in space.
Enabling Land Force operations. Land Force operations, particularly combined arms, integrate different force elements to enable the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts. Combined arms teams already rely on space-based technologies like PNT (Position, Navigation and Timing) which enables soldiers to navigate and accurately target, ISR satellites that enable planning and reconnaissance through imagery and change detection, and satellites that provide communications.
As a space planner, I’m responsible for coordinating and planning effects – in cooperation with higher-level Defence agencies and allies – that protect, defend, and enable combined arms teams to move, shoot, and communicate. In this way, the Division of 2023 is an integrator – not a provider – of space effects.
The technology-saturated battlefield of today and 2045 is highly complex. We face an adversary that is capable, innovative, well-resourced, and will compete for assured access to space-based capabilities. The rapid advancement of technologies used in military warfare means that combined arms teams must operate in a highly contested and communications-degraded environment.
Combined arms teams must adapt to operate within a disputed Electro Magnetic Operating Environment (EMOE) and respond to Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) swiftly. We will never again operate in a conflict environment void of the effects that are generated, enabled by, and/or executed using space-based capabilities. Leveraging our capabilities and that of our allies, integrating space effects into combined arms operations is crucial to secure freedom of action on the battlefield and support commanders’ decision cycles.
Space can enable militaries to deliver timely Missile Warning (MW), mitigate GPS jamming, identify and target EMI, and obtain overhead imagery in support of mission planning and dynamic targeting. In conjunction with other non-lethal effects, space can also be leveraged to deceive an adversary and draw their resources and focus away from the friendly main effort.
Working with allies. I was fortunate to attend the U.S. Army Space Cadre Basic Course to learn how the 3rd Multi-Domain Task Force (3 MDTF) supports and enables the U.S. Army to use offensive and defensive space effects. Having had the opportunity to learn and forge relationships with 3 MDTF and U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), I realise we have much to learn from our partners if we are to build capability and support the Army of 2045.
Exercise Talisman-Sabre 2023 provided the first opportunity for the division to integrate with the U.S. for the planning and coordination of space effects at a theatre level. Commanded by the U.S. 3-Star HQ of I Corps, with embedded 3 MDTF space experts and enabled by Australian Space Command personnel, there was a wide variety of space effects coordinated to support the division manoeuvre and deception plan and shape the adversary’s decision-making cycle.
The division also leveraged the knowledge and experience of our 3 MDTF space embeds to deliver training to Australian soldiers in the field. This directly informed the troops to integrate effective TTPs in responding to and reporting SATCOM electromagnetic interference (EMI).
With this in mind, we must continue to seek and pursue training opportunities with our allied partners to further increase our knowledge and skill in the space domain. Key to this is the continual strengthening of our relationships with other defence and government agencies as we strive toward becoming a more robust and resourced organisation that is ready and agile to meet the demands of supporting combined arms operations in the Army of 2045.
Where to from here? The future of space is exciting, and the role of a Divisional Space Planner will evolve to meet the demands of operating in a highly technical operational environment. An important goal for me as a planner, nests within the Defence Space Strategy ‘increase the national understanding of the criticality of space’ – to educate, build, and develop space planning into division exercises and operations. With the 2023 Command and Control restructuring of the Army’s combat brigades under the HQ 1 (AS) Division, there are opportunities for professional military education (PME) and training to integrate space into planning. Awareness is knowledge and knowledge is power, and the better informed our Army is, the greater proficiency we earn.
Looking to the immediate future, Exercise Yama Sakura 2023 occurring in Japan in November 2023 will see a U.S. Army Space Support Team (ARSST) assigned to support the HQ 1 (AS) Division. This is the first time a U.S. ARSST is commanded by a partner nation in direct support of a foreign division. It is expected that there will be many valuable lessons to come from integrating with an ARSST that we can incorporate into future division exercises and operations.
There are still many unknowns, and we have much to learn and opportunities to grasp. Space is not a ‘tick in the box’, nor a ‘nice to have’. Space enables the Land Force. It is a criticality on the battlefield. As such, it will not only contribute to combined arms operations in the Army of 2045 – but it will also heavily influence the outcome of large-scale conflicts.
So, where to from here? Watch this space.