Unless you’ve been living in a galaxy far, far away, you’ve probably heard of the newest branch of the U.S. military: the Space Force. President Trump created the new branch of the Air Force last year, declaring, “American superiority in space is absolutely vital and we’re leading, but we’re not leading by enough.”
The Space Force will be the smallest branch of the U.S. military — the Marine Corps is still more than 10 times its projected size — and will draw its personnel from current Air Force staff. The new branch will also absorb many of the Air Force’s existing responsibilities, including satellite operations and support for missile warning systems. Its first chief, General John Raymond, was sworn in last month.
So does signing up for the Space Force mean preparing to wage intergalactic battle? Not exactly. Instead, the Space Force is keeping its eyes on the stars but its feet on the ground, getting GPS information from satellites that helps the U.S. military operate in the field. We talked to Lt. Gen. David Thompson, the Space Force’s second-in-command, about the satellites his people will coordinate, avoiding space junk, and whether those new uniforms will include capes.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
GEN: What is the Space Force actually going to do?
David Thompson: It’s clear that a lot of the American public doesn’t understand what we already created.
Three quick examples of what Space Force has been doing as part of the Air Force for years. A couple weeks back you heard about the satellite colliding over Pittsburgh, PA. U.S. Space Force is the force that keeps track of all of those objects — 26,000-plus objects, some of them pieces of debris, old satellites — where they are, where they’re going, whether they pose a danger to anybody. That’s one of the things that we do today in the Space Force, and have been doing for years.
Second, in the missile attacks at [Ain] al-Asad base several weeks back, you’ll recall the Iranians fired several missiles, but…