Space as a Warfighting Domain

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Raj Agrawal
  • 20th Space Control Squadron

“Space is a warfighting domain just like air, land and sea. We have to be prepared to fight a full range of operations.” – General John “Jay” Raymond, Air Force Space Command commander.


It is a thrilling time to be an American Airman and, more specifically, a U.S. Air Force space operator. Within what was once compartmented off as the “space community,” we have seen the transition from treating space capabilities as supporting elements of surface operations, to recognizing that once-highly-classified threats routinely threaten U.S. freedom of maneuver in the space domain. We once chastised Airmen for thinking of “space for space’s sake,” and suddenly the threats we once considered to be anomalies have forced us as Airmen to no-kidding treat space as its own warfighting domain – with consideration of its definition, perimeter, lines of communication, defensive measures, and if necessary, the ability to project force in, through, and from space to achieve national security objectives.

In line with the U.S. Strategic Command and Air Force Space Command commanders' intent, the 21st Space Wing and 21st Operations Group have aggressively postured global space assets on the ground to overhaul America’s space deterrence posture. Where once we were satisfied to passively monitor space as metaphorical space traffic controllers, we have literally taken control of space…no more traffic managers, but space battle managers. From an operations-focused culture, to a progression model devoted to growing tactical leaders, to intelligence-infused mission planning, to weaponeering, to force-packaging, to debriefing…the 21st SW has demonstrated that Airmen can indeed execute—(Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage, Assess) – to the space domain. 

The 20th Space Control Squadron, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Site C-6, has been empowered with America’s preponderance of Space Situational Awareness capability. With an integrated team of civilian and military Airmen at the most powerful radar in the world at Eglin C-6; its three ground-based electro-optical deep space surveillance optical sensor locations at White Sands Missile Range, Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, and Maui Space Surveillance Complex; and now Space Fence hubs at Redstone Arsenal and U.S. Army Garrison – Kwajalein Atoll; this space operations team is driven by a collective sense of purpose. To integrate space-threat-focused SCI-level intelligence into weaponeering and force-packaging our Space Situational Awareness weapons systems around the world to characterize, recognize, and respond to threats in the space domain. If there’s a threat to U.S. interests in space, the 20th SPCS will likely be the first to see it.

The 20th SPCS has joined with our sister 21st OG squadrons to take our commander’s intent to heart…“Fight’s on!!” If it comes to it, we’re ready for today’s fight…even if that fight extends into space. As a squadron commander of a war-faring ops squadron, it’s indeed a joy to hear the empowered Eagles of the 20th SPCS loudly remind each other, every morning at the end of changeover, of our role in the space kill chain: “20th Space…Find, Fix, Finish!”

Lt. Col. Raj Agrawal is the commander of the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Site C-6, Florida, with detachments at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Maui Space Surveillance Complex, H.I., Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, and Redstone Arsenal, A.L., with an Operating Location at US Army Garrison Kwajalein Atoll. Agrawal is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, and Air War College (DL), and holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration.