The goal is to safeguard operations and give national decision-making authorities options to thwart and defeat orbital threats.

This summer, the US Space Force will conduct Red Skies, its first exercise focused on “orbital warfare.” In an online seminar backed by CSIS, the commander of the service’s Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM) addressed the issues encountered by intelligence, command and control, and operations.

STARCOM developed the exercise Red Skies to teach Guardians, especially those in charge of the Space Operations Command (SpOC). STARCOM is in charge of making sure that the operational forces are ready for the SpOC’s primary unit, Delta 9, to engage in orbital warfare.

The goal is to safeguard operations and give national decision-making authorities options to thwart and defeat orbital threats.

“Since the word “readiness” appears in our name, we must prepare those forces in advance of deployment. We were aware that in order to address the unique readiness issues of each crew force unit within the SpOC, we would need experience at a more tactical level. The ‘Skies’ series was the answer, he continued.

Two “Black Skies” exercises by STARCOM have been carried out, with a focus on electronic warfare and safeguarding US space assets from jamming attacks. Both the two-week event and the first took place at Peterson SFB in Colorado earlier this year. The first occurred in September. In the autumn, a third occasion is anticipated.

Black Skies brings the intelligence, cyber, and EW communities together to address a variety of complex issues, including live fire electromagnetic warfare.

He mentioned that in preparation for the upcoming Red Skies, STARCOM carried out a test in which “orbital warfare and aggressor units” operated the Tetra-1 experimental spacecraft, made by Millennium Space Systems, in an orbit rising faster than that of operational satellites.

Rendezvous and proximity operations, or RPO, were conducted by the satellite to simulate a close approach to another satellite, and participants had to weigh the implications.

The speaker discussed how to protect US satellites from adversary satellites using RPO, as well as how to carry out these activities safely for operators of US satellites using RPO to keep an eye on adversary satellites.

He stated that the planning for Red Skies is taking the findings of that experiment into account. As the command works to establish a National Space Test and Training Complex, Bratton also mentioned that STARCOM will hold “industry days” on June 22–23 in Colorado Springs to gather industry input on how to fill “capability gaps.” What Red Skies “threat surrogates” vendors might be able to provide is one of the things STARCOM hopes to learn.

Bratton announced that the command will host Blue Skies, the third conference in the Skies series, which will focus on cyber warfare. The goal of the exercise, which will be conducted with SpOC’s Delta 6, is to defend US space systems from hostile cyberattacks. The specifics of Blue Skies are still being worked out.

Blue skies is still a long way away. We haven’t done a lot of work,” he admitted, adding that it’s important to collaborate with US Cyber Command and the Space Force cyber units to fully set up a “range environment” that will allow practise facing cyber threats and simulating real-world operations.