Space is undeniably one of the newest and most contested warfighting domains today. While commercial activity in space continues to rapidly accelerate the speed of innovation in the domain, new threats are simultaneously emerging and threatening the United States’ position in the global competition for space dominance.
In response to rising space threats and pacing challenges from competitors like China, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, a 2023 Wash100 Award winner, aims to lead the service through “transformational change.”
Hear Secretary Kendall speak in person at the Potomac Officers Club’s 2023 Annual Air Force Summit on July 18! Don’t miss your opportunity to join the conversation with top Air Force leaders and decision makers. Register here to reserve your spot at one of the most highly-anticipated events of the year.
“Among China’s military priorities, space ranks very high. China views space as a military operational domain and is developing and fielding forces intended to dominate in that domain,” Kendall said during the 2023 Space Symposium. “Second, China does not seem to be constrained by concerns about debris generation or strategic stability. This is the environment in which the Space Force must deter and prevail.”
Modernization, Not ‘Just Airplanes’
As the “character of warfare changes,” the Air Force has its sights set on new capabilities. As a result, the service is potentially looking to divest some of its more traditional platforms that may not be able to keep up with evolving technologies and the ever-changing defense landscape.
“The truth is the Air Force needs things like electric warfare, battle management, intelligence, cyber capabilities, all of these things. It doesn’t just need airplanes,” Kendall said at the Ash Carter Exchange defense conference.
Kendall acknowledged that divesting aircraft is a difficult and sometimes sensitive decision, but it’s one that needs to be made in order to be effective against “the threat that is emerging and moving forward fairly rapidly.”
“China is not wasting any time. They’re not waiting for us to do things. They’re thinking ahead and moving forward. We have to be competitive,” warned Kendall.
As part of Kendall’s modernization push, the Air Force is moving forward with the design phase of its Next-Generation Air Dominance program. The service is currently in close collaboration with two vendors, although only one will ultimately win the contract in 2024.
On the acquisition side, the Air Force’s collaborative combat aircraft, or CCA, drone effort should soon be underway with a sizable vendor pool to work with. Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics and fellow Wash100 Award winner, said he expects the Air Force to collaborate with upwards of 20 to 30 competitors as it works to deliver and field an initial increment of 1,000 CCAs.
Secretary Kendall, Andrew Hunter and the Space Development Agency’s Dr. Derek Tournear are scheduled to headline the Potomac Officers Club’s 2023 Annual Air Force Summit on July 18. Harness this opportunity to learn from and network with the highest-ranking Air Force officials and industry leaders — register here.