AFMC Command News

U.S. Space Force official gets first-hand look at Arnold AFB

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks

Gen. David D. Thompson, vice chief of space operations for the U.S. Space Force, recently visited the Arnold Engineering Development Complex headquarters at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., to gauge how AEDC space test and evaluation capabilities can support the newest branch of the nation’s military.

On Feb. 5, Thompson spent the day at Arnold AFB meeting with AEDC leadership, touring test and evaluation capabilities across the installation and conversing with base personnel. He gleaned from his various stops and discussions that AEDC technical staff prowess and test facilities could be leveraged to enhance the Space Force mission.

“The Arnold Engineering Development Complex is home to a talented workforce with unique skills and to exquisite ground test facilities that have supported systems development across the Department of Defense for decades,” Thompson said. “As the U.S. Space Force develops space systems to operate in a newly-contested environment, we need to evolve how we test and evaluate our capabilities to ensure their survivability and effectiveness in the face of attack.

“One of the key aspects of the agility we need in developing and fielding space capabilities more rapidly is the ability to validate and refine models in physical data quickly. Arnold has the facilities and expertise already in place to help with that. Our visit was built around trying to identify those opportunities and learn from the organic, integrated approach Arnold brings to test.”

The U.S. Space Force was established on Dec. 20, 2019, with the enactment of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The new branch was established within the Department of the Air Force.

The mission of the Space Force is to organize, train and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. Its responsibilities include developing Guardians, as its members will be known; acquiring military space systems; maturing the military doctrine for space power; and organizing space forces to present to combatant commands.

In order to achieve the necessary space test enterprise, the Space Force is establishing the National Space Test and Training Range Complex to create and pull data from on-orbit and ground testing to inform digital engineering models used to design and deliver space systems quickly.

Col. Nick Hague, Space Force director of Test and Evaluation who joined Thompson on the visit, said AEDC assets can help accomplish this.  

“Arnold has unique ground test capabilities and, more importantly, the skilled workforce required to execute and analyze those data to improve testing models,” Hague said. “The AEDC has a long history of supporting space research, development and testing. And with the creation of the Space Force, we are moving toward integrating test activities across government agencies to deliver a unity-of-effort approach for the national security space enterprise.”

Thompson said partnerships of all types will be essential to the Space Force objectives of providing space capabilities as part of military operations, protecting U.S. and partner interests in space, deterring hostile behavior and promoting stability in the domain.

“Collaboration between the Space Force and AEDC, along with the rest of the Air Force Test Center, is essential to testing and fielding systems that enable space forces to do that,” Thompson said. “The AFTC is the gold standard for tests of this type, with the intellectual capital, a culture of innovation and a deep understanding of how to rapidly develop combat-capable systems. These experts will help inform the evolutionary path we need for space test, sharing lessons learned over decades of flight test.”

AEDC has a long history of supporting programs across the U.S. military, and Thompson said he foresees a similarly strong working relationship between the Space Force and AEDC.

“The U.S. Space Force looks forward to building on the relationship we already have with the Arnold Engineering Development Complex team to develop a robust space test enterprise,” he said. “We look forward to strengthening that relationship by expanding the talent pool and investing in the infrastructure so that the development of credible, cutting-edge, combat effects can benefit the Air Force and Space Force alike. The test capabilities at AEDC are vital to building capability and security while adding resiliency into our architecture to secure the nation’s interests in space.”

AEDC Commander Col. Jeffrey Geraghty said Thompson’s visit signifies the vital role AEDC know-how and facilities are set to play in the development of the Space Force.

“Gen. Thompson’s visit definitely speaks to the importance of AEDC facilities in the development of the U.S. Space Force and our national defense,” Geraghty said. “We have a long history of partnering with space capability providers, and now that space is a warfighting domain, we are eager to apply to space our decades of experience in providing the superiority of our warfighting systems.”

AEDC and the Space Force are already well on the way to forging such a relationship. During his visit, Thompson administered the Space Force Oath of Office to 2nd Lt. Michael Hareld, making Hareld the first full-time member of the Space Force at Arnold AFB.

Several transfers have been completed or are pending with the AEDC’s 704th Test Group at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. Those selected for Space Force transfers within the 704th TG and the units within the Test Group are: Lt. Col. Michael Christensen, 704th TG Headquarters; Capt. Erin Alt, 746th Test Squadron; Capt. Anthony Alt, 704th Test Support Squadron; 2nd Lt. Christopher Kessel, 586th Flight Test Squadron, Detachment 1; 1st Lt. Jeremy Swaw, 746th Test Squadron; and 1st Lt. Nicholas O’Gorman, 746th Test Squadron.

Geraghty said the partnership would prove to be beneficial to both AEDC and the latest addition to the country’s Armed Forces.

“Collaborating with the Space Force will ensure they have access to the expertise and experience of our workforce and that we can help shape the culture and capabilities of a new branch of service to ensure space warfighting capability second to none,” he said.