U.S. Space Force DEL 2 Commander Visits Japan, Strengthens Ties

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  • By Space Base Delta 1 Public Affairs

U.S. Space Force Col. Raj Agrawal, commander of Space Delta 2 – Space Domain Awareness and Space Battle Management, accompanied by members of DEL 2 and Mr. F Schnell, director of Space Systems Command’s SDA Acquisition Delta, visited Japan Oct. 4-6, 2023, to strengthen ties with Japanese space partners and advance cooperation on critical space domain awareness initiatives.

During their visit, Agrawal conducted office calls with Japan's National Space Policy Secretariat’s Executive Director, Mr. Kenji Mikami, and visited Mitsubishi Electric Corporation facilities in Kamakura to view the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System and Hosted Payloads.

Operational since 2018, the QZSS, also known as “Michibiki,” is a Japanese regional navigation satellite system (https://qzss.go.jp/en/index.html). This visit marked the first time NSPS and MELCO have invited a U.S. delegation to view the QZS-6 host satellite with the Space Force Hosted Payload after it entered Environmental Testing.

"The QZSS-HP is a game-changer for space domain awareness,” said Agrawal. “With its advanced sensors and strategic geosynchronous positioning, the two Space Force payloads graciously hosted on Japan’s QZSS constellation will provide us with unprecedented insight into the space environment. This will allow us to better identify and characterize objects in orbit, and to protect our critical space assets from potential threats. Most importantly, this is a clear signal of resolve with our close ally, fielding a U.S.-Japan flagged spacecraft to deter our shared adversaries."

Developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratories, DEL 2’s space surveillance payloads aboard two QZSS satellites will augment data flowing into the USSF’s Space Surveillance Network and reaffirming their commitment to strategic deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Delivering on our partnership with Japan is central our space enterprise’s demonstrated capability to rapidly meet Space Domain Awareness needs,” said Schnell. “The QZSS-HP showcases the collaboration and drive between partner nations to build a resilient architecture that can avoid operational surprise and deny first mover advantage.”

Additionally, Agrawal and the DEL 2 team met with member from the Japanese Ministry of Defense Air Staff Office, to include Japan Air Self-Defense Force Col. Kimitoshi Sugiyama, commander of the Space Operations Group, and Col. Takayuki Kobayashi, vice commander of the SOG, at Fuchu Air Base. Together, members from both delegations briefed and exchanged opinions on ongoing U.S.-Japan space operations collaborations, identifying space situational awareness data and information sharing initiatives.

Following the briefs, DEL 2 toured the SOG’s SSA operations room to observe Japan’s rapidly progressing space operations capabilities. Upon completion of the tour, a Japanese-style social gathering was held in Tachikawa City in the evening, greatly deepening the friendship between the Japanese and U.S. Space Forces.

"I am pleased to have met with Col. Agrawal to discuss our ongoing and close collaboration in SDA,” said Sugiyama. “This visit reaffirms that Japan and the U.S. are committed to sharing SSA data and information to ensure accountability to established international norms in space. Our alliance is a cornerstone of strategic deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and our cooperation in SDA is essential to operationalizing that deterrence."

Later in the visit, JASDF Col. Mikio Kobayashi and Col. Yoshiaki Shimamoto hosted Agrawal at JASDF Air Defense Command, Yokota Air Base, Japan. The leadership teams engaged in discussions on Early Warning and Surveillance and Air and Missile Defense given China’s aggressive space activities such as their direct ascent anti-satellite test in 2007, which created a cloud of more than 3,000 pieces of space debris, posing a significant collision threat to other space objects in Low Earth Orbit.

“It’s imperative that we work together to develop a layered, comprehensive, and distributed [integrated space and missile defense] system that can address future threats through mitigating barriers between mission areas, investing in new technologies or processes, and showing resolve in our alliance with Japan," said Agrawal.

The Space Force is working with Japan to develop a more resilient space architecture and address shared regional and global security challenges. Throughout his visit, Agrawal emphasized the importance of international cooperation, partnership, and collaboration in SDA, especially highlighting the strategic deterrence value of SDA in the Indo-Pacific region.

Agrawal’s visit follows closely on the heels of a visit to Japan by the Space Force’s Chief of Space Operations, Gen. Chance Saltzman, in September. Saltzman visited Japan to strengthen the U.S.-Japan Alliance and bolster integrated deterrence through space security cooperation. He met with senior Japanese officials to reaffirm the importance of the alliance and discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in areas such as satellite communications, research and development, and space education and training. Saltzman and Agrawal's visits to Japan demonstrate the Space Force's commitment to working with Japan to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The SOG, headquartered at Fuchu Air Base in Tokyo, Japan, is responsible for JASDF space operations.

Located at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado, DEL 2 builds combat-ready forces who operationalize SDA to identify, characterize, and exploit opportunities and mitigate vulnerabilities in the national security space terrain. DEL 2 is one of 10 mission-oriented deltas within the U.S. Space Force.