Integrating space into Information Warfare

  • Published
  • By Capt. Dorothy Sherwood
  • 16th Air Force Public Affairs
As the U.S. Air Force’s competition force, 16th Air Force (Air Forces CYBER) cultivates air and space superiority by integrating space into all warfighting functions to enhance integrated deterrence.
This integration unifies 16th Air Force’s mission support with Space Operations Command to grow readiness. Developing tactics and techniques with the information forces (Public Affairs, Information Operations forces, Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations elements, cyberspace forces) supports combat operations—a U.S. Cyber Command mission priority to maximize DoD's capabilities.

Space Operations Command prepares combat-ready, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance-led, cyber-secure space and combat support forces to present to service and combatant command missions, including U.S. Space Command.
“In order to perform the different capabilities within Information Warfare, the forces are dependent on and need space-based assets,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Theresa Kopecky, 16th Air Force, U.S. Space Force liaison officer. “A key partnership between 16th Air Force and the Space Force is essential to understand the combatant commander’s requirements for effects during strategic and operational planning that is done together.” 

Cyber is an integral part of all military planning and operations spanning multiple domains like space operations. Kopecky has been developing this critical connection, not just between cyber and space, but throughout 16th Air Force operations that expand the globe.

“I integrate anywhere I can to help personnel understand the space terrain,” said Kopecky. “For instance, how do space systems work, what are the threat actors, adversaries in space — how do they operate with terrestrial nodes, communications, signals intelligence, personalities or any type of activity that is space related.”   
A priority effort for the Space Force and 16th Air Force involves improving the resilience of U.S. space architectures and hardening networks against hostile cyber operations. 

Sixteenth Air Force’s defensive cyberspace operations facilitates resilient U.S. space architectures that various combatant commands, U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. European Command, and U.S. Allies rely on.

One such enterprise is the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications. The NC3 is an integrated weapons system that is used to conduct continuous, survivable and secured communications.

“The 16th Air Force Operations Directorate (A3) conducts cyberspace operational planning to protect and defend the NC3 enterprise and space capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Temesha Christensen, 16th Air Force, Future Operations Division (A35) cyber security and defense branch chief. “We are closely aligned with U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command to ensure unity of effort. The integration and ongoing enhancements of cybersecurity technology and activities ensure our ability to respond to adverse conditions in the cyberspace environment."

Emerging threats in defensive and offensive counterspace operations makes Space Force and 16th Air Force’s symbiotic relationship vital to protecting critical information and information systems against cyberattack or network intrusions.

One of 16th Air Force’s wing’s, the 688th Cyberspace Wing, is the Air Force's premier cyberspace warfighting organization. They deliver tactics, techniques, and procedures, defensive cyber operations and network security operations across the Air Force Information Network enterprise.

The Air Force Information Network, a portion of the Department of Defense Information Network, is a complex networked infrastructure that all U.S. military organizations use to carry out their missions.

“The Space Force doesn’t have its own information network, it uses the AFIN,” said Kopecky.

Assigned to the 688th Cyberspace Wing is the 33rd Cyberspace Operations Squadron, which takes on the important mission to protect, detect and respond to threats on AFIN 24/7, 365 days a year.

“Fortunately, the Space Force uses the same unclassified network as the Air Force, so we are providing Defensive Cyber Operations services for them 24/7 on the main unclassified network,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Brownheim, 33rd COS commander. “The 33rd COS also partners with Space Force to provide various tactics, techniques, and procedures, and tradecraft tips used in the pursuit of performing Cyber Security Service Provider functions across the enterprise to Space Delta 6.”
Space Delta 6, under Space Operations Command, is the Space Force’s designated CSSP for space-based systems.
“The Space Force is just four years old, and we are starting to get equipped to be a part of joint force operational planning and IW planning,” said Kopecky. “As the Space Force grows, my role will continue to integrate and innovate Space Force capabilities within 16th Air Force to counter potential threats, and secure and defend Space Forces’ architecture that our operations rely on.”