Pirates swarming the Horn of Africa still give Air Force
commanders heartburn in the year 2023.
Islamic radicals patrol the waters, leaving mayhem and death in
their wake. They call themselves al Shabaab — a rough-and-tumble
offshoot of the terrorists that brought down the World Trade
Centers on 9/11.
The terrorist cell is the target of Operation Jolly Roger, a war
Looking 11 years into the future, troops from eleven countries
will huddle in a secretive base on the outskirts of Las Vegas,
commanding satellites and waging a high-tech war against a
terrorist cell that’s hard to stamp out.
The elaborate five-day scenario began Friday after more than a
year of preparation by troops at Schriever Air Force Base in
It’s designed to challenge leaders with the emerging future of
warfare — one waged partly in space, with countries across the
world working together to get their satellites and intelligence
It’s a future that’s destined to arrive quickly.
“For at least the second half of the 20th century, the U.S.
enjoyed the stature and prosperity of levels seldom achieved in
recorded history,” said William Parker, The Space Foundation’s
special advisor for international affairs, during a panel
discussion last week at the National Space Symposium at The
Broadmoor. “Nobody had ever seen anything quite like it. It’s
not going to be that way for the next 10 or 15 years.”
Instead, the future figures to look something like Schriever War
Conducted by Air Force Space Command’s Space Innovation and
Development Center, the war game involves about 270 people at
Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada who will coordinate troops from
nearly a dozen countries while fighting fictitious pirates in
War games are used by commanders to plot future actions. While
the enemies are fictional, the battle plans are real.
The seventh rendition of the war game features NATO allies
Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey.
Longtime U.S. partners Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom
will also participate.
Never before have so many countries tried to work side-by-side
during the space-focused war game.
The Schriever War Game will map out how U.S. generals will
communicate with their allies in a war and help leaders figure
out how each nation’s space and computer capabilities would
play out on the future battlefield.
Cash-strapped governments, as well as the “contested,
competitive and congested” nature of space, have prompted the
change, current and former top
military space officials said during the Space Symposium.
Sharing the cost of military satellites and software has become
a “trigger” for countries like France to become bigger players
in space, said Col. Inaky Garcia-Brotons, chief of staff for the
French Joint Space Command.
Meanwhile, a worldwide space culture change has led countries to
share more information gleaned from satellites that was once
Earlier this year, America shared the trajectory of a Russian
mars probe that crashed to earth after failing to leave orbit,
said Brig. Gen. James K. McLaughlin — who counts among his
titles the director of space operations for the Air Force.
Years ago, that information would have been secret, he said.
“It is the simple realization of various tasks we cannot
shoulder alone no matter what our budgetary situation is like,”
said Brig. Gen. Ansgar Rieks, of the German Ministry of Defense.
Communicating the terabytes of data collected by each satellite
figures to be among the biggest challenge moving forward,
McLaughlin needed only one word to assess the U.S. ability to
fully transmit data to other countries: “no.”
When every country operates on different technological
platforms, sharing data can be difficult, he said.
Today, U.S. airmen will face the other challenge of sharing data
— coordinating multi-national troops in the same room while
dealing with pesky satellite interference.
“When you have 10 entities, pursuing one goal with varying
perspectives potentially — our job here today is to learn how
best to integrate those capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. Samuel
Greaves, director of plans, programs and analysis for Air Force