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USAF leadership making some curious statements about Space.

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posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 04:48 AM
I did not really know if this should properly go in the Aircraft forum or the Space forum, but since this is the USAF I decided to put it here.
A moderator can move if it should more properly be placed elsewhere.

It seems that the US Air Force is not thrilled about the notion of a "Space Force" to siphon off both expertise and capabilities, and I guess the creation of a new force exclusively for the space domain will probably be resisted in other parts of the US Military as well.
This may well be why there seem to be quite a few odd statements being made by some very senior people within the USAF, which certainly shows that the USAF has been thinking about space capabilities for some time now. Maybe it even hints that it is indeed expecting to become radically more capable in space in the future.

First there is this quote from USAF Chief Of Staff, General David Goldfein, from some musings on the next generation of refueling tankers:

I actually don’t know if the next version of tanker operates in the air or operates at low earth orbit.. I don’t know if it’s manned or unmanned, and I actually don’t care that much as long as it brings the attributes we need to win... It might sound a little bit odd that the commander of Air Mobility Command is talking to Air Force Space Command about development of the next tanker, but it makes perfect sense to me.

Source is the below article from "The War Zone":
USAF Chief says next air refueling tanker may fly in low earth orbit

A tanker in LEO? Really?

In a situation where most single stage to orbit platforms seems to have been abandoned, this is a very curious statement. The USAF has indeed had some success in space, perhaps most spectacularly with the X-37 Space Plane, but unless there have been some developments that we are not privy to (which might be the case), a LEO tanker platform seems decidedly premature. I understand the need for visions, but in the current climate where Virgin Galactic and other private actors are struggling up into suborbital heights, where is this notion of a LEO tanker coming from?

If the USAF is clandestinely fighting to stave off the creation of a Space Force, talking points such as this is probably useful to blur the line between what is space and what is not, which might be beneficial for the USAF to maintain it's role as a significant space actor.

However, this statement is not alone among curious comments within the last year or so.

On august 3. 2018 FlightGlobal's Steve Trimble got some very curious comments from USAF LtGen VeraLinn Jamieson in an interview, where the USAFs ambitions in space was taken to a whole new level with the following:

I am convinced that there are more domains – man-made domains – that will come, and I would offer you that if we look at galaxies – sounds nuts – but there’s going to be a man-made domain in galaxies.

Space has got different galaxies. And in those galaxies in the future we’re going to actually have capability that we have right now in the air. We don’t know what it is because we haven’t freed our mind to think about what is that space and how we are going to utilize it. Space is contested. It’s going to happen.

Source: Steve Trimble tweet

Again, some very curious statements that shows the USAF is definitely thinking long and hard about space and what the future might hold, yet given our current understanding about the USAF space capabilities, this seems odd to say the least.

So, what is this? Just fluff or is the USAF seriously musing about LEO tankers and operating in other galaxies?
Is it about to boldly go where no Air Force has ever gone before?


edit on 8-2-2019 by beetee because: Corrected a grammatical mistake

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 05:09 AM
a reply to: beetee

the only use for an LEO tanker = support of " other " assets in LEO or above - that have " short legs "

just my opinion - YMMV

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 05:13 AM
a reply to: beetee

Being able to fly in low Earth orbit will give massive advantages over sattelites and radio signals etc.
An EMP will fry any recievers and place your enemy in a blind state. Whilst still having direct focus on your enemy.

Where that enemy hails from is the big question ...

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 05:27 AM
Just how important is the high ground in any conflict? For any military to be serious about its global capabilities, space is a part of the environment. For any military to consider is galactic capabilities, space is the next step.

Space is a dangerous, expensive and complex place to go. No doubt there will be some in the military too scared or confused to want anything to do with space. Probably best they just stay on the ground or where they are comfortable.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 05:36 AM
a reply to: ignorant_ape

Well, while this was most likely more of a "anything is possible" statement, it is interesting that the notion of a LEO tanker is casually dropped like this. Normally I would think such an exotic concept would be more of a "in the far future" sort of idea, and not something that would come up in any discussion of "next generation"...

As you say, the role of a tanker is to refuel other assets, and as far as I know refueling satellites is not what you would expect the Air Force to think much about.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 05:43 AM
a reply to: Timely

I think it has been apparent to every major power for some time that space is going to be enormously important in any future large scale conflict between peer states.

If the USAF has not been thinking about this, it would not be doing its job, but the apparent immediacy of the tanker idea and the extreme ambition of the second statements about galaxies was a bit unexpected.

The official view of the state of affairs is that we are struggling to even get to the International Space Station with some regularity, so anyone making references to a tanker in LEO or operating in other galaxies are, of course, going to make some eyebrows rise.

I have long believed that there has been a fairly busy clandestine military activity in space from more than one major power on this planet, but I admit that even I had not seriously considered that we would be anywhere near musings about galaxies in the foreseeable future.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 05:50 AM
a reply to: kwakakev

Of course, as I said in my previous comment, Space is of vital military importance, and has been for some time now.

It was more the implied expectations of capabilities that caught me a bit off guard.

I mean, maneuverable satellites and even anti-satellite systems that might exist is one thing, but a vulnerable tanker platform in LEO is a pretty novel idea. Not to mention the Inter Galactic Air Force :-D
edit on 8-2-2019 by beetee because: comment ,not statement.. gah

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 06:24 AM
a reply to: beetee

that is interesting.

i can imagine a tanker that is unmanned with the ability to be pretty much anywhere it is needed. the hard part is getting to LEO, but once your there it would be easy to stay there. seems very expensive for the cost to benefit ratios, if they are willing to send gas to LEO i wonder what else is planned to go up that would make a space tanker neended.

i wonder if this space force will take things from the NRO? i think of them as a space force.

i think people would be very surprised to know what is already going on up there, there is SOMETHING up there that is very very very fast.

thats one thing i will never understand, we clearly have some very intimidating tech in use that can at the very least get to LEO and back in a stealthy way(no apparent rocket launches), why do the powers that be pretend the tech isnt available to them? surly the POTUS knows about some of these assets? i assume who every is flying them would need approval from the POTUS before overflying other countries?

if i( a nobody) knows there are things flying around that are truly advanced then the people we fly these things over know they exist as well.

i get the secrecy about them but i think if the wider american public knew about some of these programs it would help jumpstart a new era of travel and science. Knowing something is possible is a great motivator, but SEEING amazing tech is a better one.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 06:39 AM
a reply to: penroc3

why do the powers that be pretend the tech isn't available to them?

I think, if there are such assets, that the very notion that it is possible to do this would be jealously guarded. I don't know how they would do it, apart from some notions on LTA platforms which might conceivably work in conjunction with some other propulsion system, but I think it is clear from history that once the cat is out of the bag, others will soon breed cats of their own. Maybe it is very exotic and carries other potentially disruptive technologies with it.

Maybe it is that what you don't know to exist, you won't look for, and what you don't look for you won't find?

surly the POTUS knows about some of these assets?

I seem to remember that even Reagan in his diary claimed to have been briefed about how the US could orbit 300 people in his day. Now, maybe he had gotten it all wrong, but then maybe not...

i assume who every is flying them would need approval from the POTUS before overflying other countries?

The fact is that the USAF is "flying" or at least orbiting over other countries daily with the X-37, and nobody seem to be raising that much of a fuss. Which, I guess, is due to the notion that space seems to be considered a bit like international waters, and not considered part of any nations territory... I am not an expert in international law, but I should think there would be more of a stink if this was really controversial...

And isn't that convenient...
edit on 8-2-2019 by beetee because: Removed an errant word

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:00 AM
a reply to: beetee

Reagan's new orient express.

i have personally seen a dull yellow light doing some pretty astonishing maneuvers that stopped me in my tracks, i was outside smoking and i always look at the stars outside and from one end of the sky i noticed a very strange yellow looking 'star'. It was moving VERY fast, but it was the way it moved that made me follow it across the sky. instead of a nice smooth arc in a constant speed this thing moved in apparently boost and glide maneuvers. it looked like it was walking up steps in the sky very abrupt and almost jerky movements. from me seeing it at almost straight above me to over the horizon took a handful of seconds, i couldn't even make a guess at the speed that is.

i think anything that flies over another country in a military way that could case an international issue would need to get the OK from the white house, just on a mission approval role. Imagine if one of out very secret aircraft/spacecraft got shot out of the sky like Powers and his U2, we thought that the U2 was safe, until it wasn't.

i could see if some of these types of platforms were to get brought down we(the us) might hit the site of the crash so that nothing would be found, or at the very least a team would be sent to recover it and they would need to be ready and waiting. and i bet that would need the green light from the POTUS for a US team to go where ever to recover it.

as for space being international waters, it's kind of a forced peace. if ANYONE starts glowing up sats(or whatever) we as a race would quickly lose access to space as there would be to much junk in orbit

its funny that the governments keep these programs a secret from the people that pay for it, but our enemies(perceived or real) know about them.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:01 AM
I was told that the USAF already has a significant Space presence.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:13 AM
a reply to: penroc3

its funny that the governments keep these programs a secret from the people that pay for it, but our enemies(perceived or real) know about them.

Hehe... There is, no doubt, a real need for secrecy in some area of technical engineering... Some ways of doing things are pretty advantageous, I suspect, and nobody want to give a competitor a leg-up if they can help it. I guess it better if they stumble and burn some billions to get there by themselves...

I do think that there is a pretty good understanding of what the other "peers" are doing on a more broad scale, because you really don't want someone with a lot of nuclear weapons getting a nasty surprise and perhaps having a bit of a panicky reaction... At least history (the official part) seem to indicate that some courtesy is awarded to the opposition to avoid a mishap, at least when it becomes apparent that people on the other team are getting a bit nervous and jumpy...

Perhaps it is also convenient to keep thing hushed up if you are spending the odd billion on something that would get some nasty questions asked in the Senate and some voices starting to pipe up with the Treaties of yesterday in the UN?

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:17 AM

I was told that the USAF already has a significant Space presence.
a reply to: lostbook

I never get told these kinds of things...

Maybe I hang around with the wrong people.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:35 AM
a reply to: beetee
Oh dear , Tyler does love letting his imagination run wild doesn't he?

Therefore I tend to take what Rogoway speculates (and he does love speculating) with a grain of salt. There are two things wrong with this conjecture, well three actually.

1). Perhaps its just me but it seems pretty obvious that what Goldfein is saying is that it (the next generation of tanker) can be anything as long as it delivers relevant capability. He's just pointing out that he isn't limiting his thinking to a traditional tanker design of tube and wing and a crew.

2). I dont know why he is speculating it but the entire concept of a LEO tanker being used for conventional air breathing assets is beyond stupid, not to mention probably defying some basic laws of physics. LEO implies somewhere north of 350,000ft. Assets need to be tanked around the 30,000ft mark.Is it going to have a hose and drogue arrangement with a 300,000ft + hose? LEO implies a very high speed in order to maintain that orbit, even the SR-71 had to slow to subsonic speed in order to gas up, how will they deal with a speed differntial in the many multiple Mach range? And if he is implying that the LEO tanker would break orbit, re-enter the atmosphere, slow to subsonic to tank and then climb back up to operating altitude, then that's one hell of an amazing bird they have there. At which point they should scrap the idea of using it as a tanker and running conventional fighters and build it instead as an intercontinental strike asset. And lets not forget that something tear arsing around the sky like that would stand out like a sore thumb to even amateur observers, let alone potential adversaries who could track it and determine where strike packages or recon assets were. The entire concept doesn't make sense let alone conform to several basic rules of flight and orbital physics.

3). There is no way in hell that Goldfein or any high ranking official would casually drop the idea of a revolutionary and game changing development like that to the casual media, even if it were true. That would be a very dark shade of black type of program, even if it were technically possible.

Tyler is just trying to create talking points to keep people interested in reading his blog, nothing else.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 07:53 AM
The logistics of a LWO refuller does lead to a class of planes that can make it into a low Earth orbit. Maybe some intermediate tanker to help fuel the smaller planes in the atmosphere. Or maybe a different type of fuel altogether, one that can get charged up from a high intensity microwave beam maybe. The idea of a LWO refuller does lend itself more to a LEO spaceship carrier.

As for going galactic, Considering how long it has been since the Roswell crash, along with many others, the people with their hands on this would have to be doing something very wrong not to work it out. One of the heads of Lockheed Martin came out a while ago saying they had the technology to take ET home. I would be quite surprised to hear that we do not have it.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:05 AM
a reply to: thebozeian

Although Mr Rogoway does enjoy his speculation, the notion of a LEO tanker was probably not just made up on the spot by General Goldfein. I would be hesitant to claim that the USAF would have any need for such a system, if not in a more unconventional role of e.g. supplying fuel to maneuverable satellites, but it came from somewhere.

However the most stunning piece of speculation is not what he said but what LtGeneral Jamieson volunteered to a "gaggle of journalists".

Where did that come from? Galaxies as a domain of operation for the USAF? Capabilities like they have in the air today in these new domains in the future? That is pretty spectacular, you must admit...
edit on 8-2-2019 by beetee because: Correction and clarification

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:33 AM
a reply to: beetee

Stuff like this makes you wonder if a certain "he who will not be named" was telling the truth.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:46 AM
lol most of you give those bozos way too much credit

There is no super secret space program run by the air force. At best they had a limited covert launch to LEO capability at some point.

The tanker comment more than likley refers to them thinking about refueling satellites.

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:47 AM
Does anyone know just how far away the nearest galaxy is ? and how long it would take to get there, even at light speed ?

posted on Feb, 8 2019 @ 08:47 AM
a reply to: beetee
No it possibly wasn't totally made up, but he may have been referring to an example, such as (that I'm sure Zaph will neither confirm or deny to me in an open post) the X-37B could be used amongst other things for trialing refueling of recon birds in orbit to extend their lives and drive down intel costs by not needing to send up replacement ones when the fuel runs out, not to mention simple repair and in orbit upgrades.

A fourth point is that if a LEO tanker was looked at it would imply assets already in operation or planned that could benefit from tanking in low orbit. Problem there is that there really isn't anything that could justify it. You dont build something without reason and nobody has heard any rumors last I checked of a large force of aerospace vehicle assets that would justify building a dedicated tanker force for, and worthy of mention by a 4 star General during discussion about the USAF's tanker replacement plans. Single stage to orbit just doesn't work practically (yet), let alone work well enough and in sufficient numbers to justify support assets like dedicated tankers. Its all a stretch without substance.

As for the Lt Generals comments, I think she sounds like the consummate politician, skilled in the art of distraction and subterfuge. I agree with one of the posters who knew her personally that she was using a bit of a red Herring to deflect a question by throwing a curve ball at a room full of reporters, classic smoke bomb stuff. The other possibility is that she is probably gunning for the head of the Space Force job by implying that she "gets it". What better way to telegraph it than in that same said room full of reporters? The whole Galaxies thing just sounds like a thought exercise extension of logic anyway. Its what I would do.
edit on 8-2-2019 by thebozeian because: (no reason given)

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