USAF Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein spoke on the subject to an audience of airmen at the Air Force Association's 34th annual Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Florida. The Air Force's most senior uniformed officer claimed that he wants the USAF to take the lead in extraterrestrial warfare.
"[It's] time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today," he said. "I believe we're going to be fighting from space in a matter of years. And we are the service that must lead joint war fighting in this new contested domain. This is what the nation demands."
Goldfein went on to outline his plan to integrate intelligence-gathering and communication capabilities across all planes — air, ground, sea, cyber and space. "I look forward to discussing how we can leverage new technology and new ways of networking multi-domain sensors and resilient communications to bring more lethality to the fight," said Goldfein.
He also pushed for the development of a new generation of commanders to lead the fight. Goldfein called upon Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, to develop a training program to prepare officers for space ops.
"We need to build a joint, smart space force and a space-smart joint force," Goldfein said.
USAF's budget for space programs in 2018 was $7.75 billion, about 20 percent higher than the 2017 budget — and they want to further ramp it up to $8.5 billion by 2019, according to SpaceNews.
Most of the money will go to research and development, while the remainder will go to building and launching satellites. The main projects include an improved GPS system and satellite-mounted infrared surveillance systems.
The USAF intends to spend $44.3 billion on space warfare programs over the next five years — 18 percent more than they had previously stated they would need.
Civilian leaders, too, have recognized the importance of space as a battlefield for future wars. Rep. Mike Rogers, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman, proposed the creation of a "Space Corps," a new uniformed service modeled after the US Marine Corps, to keep the US ahead of the curve and other powers like China and Russia.
Rogers' idea was shelved in December. The creation of a new uniformed service, which would siphon funds away from them, would no doubt be unpopular with the existing branches — especially the Air Force, which currently leads US space warfare programs.
"When you think of how dependent the US military is on satellites for everything from its communication and navigation to command and surveillance, we are already fighting in space, even if it's not like the movies depicted," said Peter W. Singer, strategist at New America and one of the top military thinkers in the US, to Gizmodo.
"If we were ever to fight another great power, like a China or Russia, it is likely the opening round of battle would be completely silent, as in space no one would hear the other side jamming or even destroying each other's satellites."
No word yet on whether or not the USAF plans to teach cadets about a Kobayashi Maru scenario.