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originally posted by: beetee
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?