Abstract. This paper considers the role and function of military space assets during current and prospective stages of their development, the prerequisites for the deployment of space combat systems, the classification of space weapons, and a definition of space as a theater of military operations. The authors present their views on specific features of the tactics of the Military Space Forces (MSF) and the continuity of provisions of MSF tactics in relation to General Tactics of the Armed Forces.

The emergence and development of space weapons inevitably requires forming new views and approaches to the tactics of modern space forces and transforming them into tactics of the Military Space Forces (MSF). This is obvious, since tactics as the theory and practice of preparing and waging combat is the primary and most dynamic basis for the military art of any armed service (branch) performing combat missions with appropriate weapons and in conditions corresponding to their use as intended.

It might seem that the role of tactics becomes essentially secondary in outer space, where assets intended to perform strategic, or at least operational-strategic, missions are deployed. However, such a mistaken view of tactics has already existed in Russian military theory. That view was formed under the influence of the “nuclear euphoria” of the 1960s, when it was unquestionably believed that a future world war would certainly be nuclear. At the same time, when the military doctrine changed in the 1970s, A.A. Grechko, Minister of Defense of the USSR, wrote in his book Armed Forces of the Soviet State: “Irrespective of what weapons are used for waging war, tactics remains the basis for achieving operational and strategic success, and the implementation of operational and strategic plans starts namely from tactics, is exercised by tactical methods, and is completed by them, too.”1

Tactics requires that troops (forces) acquire an appropriate set of theoretical knowledge and master practical skills, considering, in particular, the characteristics and physical attributes of the area (territory, environment, domain) of the theater of operations (TO) in which troops (forces) perform their combat missions.

It is obvious that natural characteristics and physical attributes of outer space differ radically from the usual living environment of modern humans, including earth and air and water space.

When describing the physical qualities of outer space, it should be noted that this environment is characterized by deep vacuum, harsh ultraviolet radiation, solar wind, high-energy particles, and interstellar dust in the form of meteoric dust and larger meteorites. The most important factors of outer space whose influence must be considered when organizing any activity in it are: the magnetic fields of the Earth, the Sun, and the planets; the presence of radiation belts (high-energy particles captured and held by a magnetic field); and, finally, gravitation and weightlessness.2,3,4

A detailed analysis of the aforementioned characteristics alone convincingly proves that outer space is an extremely hostile environment for living organisms, and unless a range of protective measures is taken, these organisms have no chance of survival. A study was once done on the possibility of sending manned stations to outer space so that they could function in orbit as control centers (CCs) as a part of the state and military command and control system. The feasibility of such a component in command and control systems has not received widespread recognition, but the idea has not been altogether rejected. Practice shows that 90% of the time that a space station crew is in orbit is devoted to ensuring the survival of crew members: They inspect the station, service and repair it, and perform life sustainment tasks. This deprives cosmonauts of the opportunity to focus entirely on systematically and fully performing their missions.5

In addition, human physiological capabilities simply do not allow humans to participate in most technological operations that would require, for example, cosmic velocities and distances.

For example, human reaction times prevent them from adequately:

• steering a spaceship that is on a collision course with another space object when the resulting velocity of their mutual approach might exceed 15 km/s

• directing the onboard electro-optical reconnaissance (target acquisition) equipment of a space vehicle (SV) when the equipment is functioning in the mode of detailed observation of a ground object, because when such an SV is at an altitude of, say, 200 km, a 0.5° deviation of the lens axis from the observed object will lead to a frame offset of almost 2 km on the Earth’s surface

• training a laser on an orbital object that is even just a few kilometers away from the laser, etc.

However, these are all purely geometric factors that do not take into account the many mistakes and errors that must be compensated for in most tasks performed in and from space. It is not only difficult but generally impossible for humans to take them into account in their actions. However, such problems are quite avoidable for technological systems, since the characteristics of space equipment used for carrying out respective tasks can ensure a wide range of required functions to automatically compensate for such errors.

All of this shows that combat missions in and from space will be performed only by highly automated or even automatic destructive and strike combat assets. Programs and combat algorithms installed on their onboard control systems and capable of adapting to changes in the situation must ensure the functioning of such assets. At the same time, the execution of such programs and combat algorithms must be monitored by humans, and the operators of space weapons operations control centers must always be able to adjust the functioning of automatic combat systems.

Various armed services and combat arms (services, branches) already perform combat missions using unmanned assets. However, so far this refers to the use of unmanned assets by military units armed with traditional (“classical”) weapons. A provision on conducting combat with only automated (automatic) weapons, which is inevitable in space, will be one of the most important novelties that MSF tactics will introduce into the theory and practice of the General Tactics of the Armed Forces.

Nevertheless, MSF tactics, while adding a lot to the theory and practice of combat activity, does not reject the main provisions and principles of classical tactics. In the process of its formation, MSF tactics formulates innovations on its basis.

For instance, when considering the nature of combat operations that may take place in outer space, we should note characteristics that are also inherent to modern combined arms combat: resoluteness, intensity, fast pace and rapidity, and quick and abrupt changes of the situation. However, in space, all these characteristics will acquire a new, inflated dimension given the gigantic scale of the space TO comprising many millions of cubic kilometers, cosmic velocities measured in tens of thousands of kilometers per hour, time intervals of combat situations measured in seconds, and many other factors and parameters uncharacteristic of the traditional living environment of humans.

It is evident that the main types of combat operations in and from space will also be divided into offensive and defensive operations. However, offense and defense will not involve driving the enemy from certain areas of space to another.

The essence of offensive operations will be associated with capturing orbits that make it possible to dominate the enemy in a certain layer of outer space and, moreover, attempting to deprive the enemy of opportunities to use space assets in principle (or at least some of their types) in their interests.

For their part, defensive operations will be aimed at repelling enemy attacks on both the orbital and terrestrial component of space infrastructure. As is known, the main contents of contemporary combined arms combat are fire, strike, and maneuver.

All these components will also be characteristic for combat operations in a space TO, but again, they will have a specific nature.

In space, it is possible to consider a maneuver of two types:

The first type, a technological maneuver,as an obligatory operation executed during an orbital flight, is envisaged in the technological cycles of the operation of many SVs. Such a maneuver may be considered the equivalent of a march by troops to the areas of their combat use:

• It may be performed at the stage of adding an SV to an orbital group (OG) and guiding an SV to a planned operational orbit (or a position in such an orbit).

• SVs may periodically perform such a maneuver to adjust their position in space when resuming an assigned orbit or reaching it during their launch into space by carrier rockets.

The second type, a combat (tactical) maneuver,is performed in a combat situation and considered similar to the maneuvering of troops on the battlefield:

• It is an organized change of the ballistic parameters of an SV (SV group) allowing it (them) to reach a new orbit to assume a favorable position in relation to the enemy or create a required SV group intended to carry out an assigned mission or a newly emerging mission in a combat situation. Such a maneuver may be performed to create favorable conditions for redirecting or retargeting (concentrating, distributing) strikes and for systemic combat engagement of the enemy’s OGs and objects for their most effective destruction.

• It may be used in the event that the SV is suddenly in danger of colliding with space debris; in a combat situation, it may be used to avoid entering the destruction zone of an interceptor fighter of the enemy’s antispace defense (ASD).

The capability to perform a maneuver in outer space is incorporated into control systems and the integral design of interceptor fighters of antisatellite warfare (ASW) as well as SV inspectors designed to approach SV targets to inspect or destroy them.

An example of maneuvering military SV are “satellite destroyer” combat space vehicles (CSV) (such as Kosmos-252Polyot) that were part of the Vstrecha system of the USSR ASD.

The first successful interception of an SV target by this combat system took place on November 1, 1968, when a Polyot CSV – in just its second orbit after reaching outer space – measured the target trajectory, performed an adjusting tactical maneuver, and, upon approaching the SV target (a Kosmos-248), exploded and destroyed the target with a directed stream of destructive agents.6,7,8

A collective tactical maneuver in a combat situation was performed by reconnaissance SVs of the US Air Force during Operation Desert Storm for providing real-time monitoring of the results of massive missile and aerial strikes (MMAS) delivered by the coalition of multinational forces on Iraqi troops and installations; there were also maneuvers of SVs of the nuclear early-warning system (NEWS) to increase the effectiveness of detecting launches of operational-tactical missiles (OTM) of the Iraqi Armed Forces.9,10

However, the overwhelming majority of SVs currently functioning in outer space, even if they have fuel reserves (rocket propellant) for performing such maneuvers, possess it in very limited quantities, which does not permit them to constantly change their orbits and maneuver. In particular, this refers to existing types of SV inspectors and will be relevant for CSVs that are interceptor fighters of the ASD (if they are developed) designed to destroy orbital targets using a kinetic method.

Estimates that make it possible to reach conclusions about present-day requirements for the quantitative reserves of rocket propellant (fuel and oxidizer) onboard an SV for performing various maneuvers are presented in Tables 1 and 2.

Even a cursory analysis of the results of the presented calculations shows that either the SVs designed to make frequent maneuvers in outer space must have considerable fuel reserves, which will sharply increase their launch costs, or they must be designed to have a short active service life, which also entails increased production and launch costs.

Therefore, during the bulk of their active service, present-day SVs perform orbital flight in passive (inertial) mode, when their position in space is governed only by the laws of celestial mechanics, and thus can be predicted with great accuracy.

A “strike in and from space” refers to one component of combat operations in space theaters of operations (SpTO). It consists in the simultaneous destruction (or destruction performed within a limited time frame and as part of a common concept) of groupings of enemy troops and installations located on Earth or in space by the powerful impact of various weapons.

Table 1

Power Budget of an SV Maneuver for Increasing the Perigee Altitude of the Orbit by 100 km

Reference apogee altitude (km)1,129 km
Reference perigee altitude (km)2003004005006007008009001,0001,100
Relative velocity required for the maneuver (m/s)0.020.01970.01930.0190.01860.01860.0180.01770.01740.0171
Required rocket propellant mass (kg)49.8948.99948.1347.2946.4745.6744.544.1443.4042.69

Note. Reference data: SV mass is 7,500 kg; SV engine performance (effective gas velocity) is 3,000 m/s.

Table 2

Power Budget of the SV Maneuver for Changing the Orbital Inclination

Change in orbital inclination (Δi°)10°15°
Relative velocity required for the maneuver (m/s)0.1230.2460.3690.4920.6151.2281.84
Required rocket propellant mass (kg)301.195590.273867.7021,1341,3892,5193,437

Note. Reference data: SV mass is 7,500 kg; SV engine performance (effective gas velocity) is 3,000 m/s; apocenter altitude is 1,129 km; perigee altitude is 200 km.

Strikes in and from space can be classified based on:

• employed combat assets (strike or destructive, space-based or ground-based) and be distinguished as kinetic, radioelectronic or electrooptical, radiological, or plasma-type

• the number of assets participating in the strike: strikes may be massive, concentrated, group, or single

• direction of the strike: earth to space, space to space, space to earth, or combined.

Considering the specific features of outer space, fire (in its classical, “terrestrial” sense) cannot be considered an effective factor of systemic destructive impact on space objects. However, an alternative to terrestrial firing weapons (small arms, artillery, aerial weapons, etc.) in space can be radioelectronic or electrooptical destruction (neutralization) weapons that either put enemy objects out of action or disrupt their functioning for at least the duration of the time cycle of employing these assets (objects) when they are used for their intended purpose. In this case, the term “fire” can be used figuratively or replaced with the term “combat effect.”

Any discussion of MSF tactics during the planning and conducting of operations in and from space must also touch on the principles of preparing and conducting combat operations. At the same time, they follow the military science principles accumulated during previous stages of development and have confirmed their significance in combat practice. In this regard, the book Tactics Is the Art of Combat, written by general I.N. Vorobyov for the Ground Forces, states that although the lessons of previous wars cannot always serve as a starting point and criterion for assessing new phenomena in military affairs, nevertheless, the incremental development of forms and methods of combat operations has not been disrupted. This means that the value of principles formulated through the military practice of several centuries has remained.11

In connection with this, the main principles (see Figure) that must be considered when organizing and conducting MSF combat operations should be the following:

• constant combat readiness of military units armed with space weapons, as well as the constant combat-ready condition of combat and supporting space assets

• complete exertion of the moral and physical strength of personnel, the use of the moral and psychological factor for performing a combat mission by MSF units

• stable and continuous troop command and control

• conformity of MSF units’ combat missions to their combat capabilities

• organization and maintenance of continuous interaction among MSF units, of information exchange among SVs in OGs

• determined concentration of efforts in the main direction and at the decisive moment

• decisiveness, activeness, and continuity of combat operations in and from space

• suddenness of actions and the use of military cunning (deception of the enemy)

• maneuvering by military units, space assets, strikes, destroying and neutralizing impacts

• predeployment, timely buildup, and replenishment of the OGs of combat and supporting SVs

• protection of troops and SV OGs during combat operations

• timely restoration of the combat capability of MSF units

• comprehensive support of combat operations in and from space.

An analysis of the aforementioned principles makes it possible to see their direct relation to the main principles of classical tactics. Nevertheless, outer space is a new environment where the possibility of armed struggle is being considered, and new combat assets for conducting such struggle affect and impose special characteristics on armed confrontation beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

Constant Combat Readiness of Military Units Armed With Space Weapons. Constant Combat-Ready Condition of Combat and Supporting Space Assets

The principle of combat readinessmay be called a cornerstone principle of tactics. This principle, formulated relatively recently, has determined the main requirement for troops in an era when suddenness of attack became not only the reason for defeats in initial fights and battles, but also a factor that can influence the further unfavorable course and even the outcome of the entire armed conflict. It denotes the condition of troops that allows them to enter combat in an organized manner, within established time frames, and perform assigned missions successfully under any circumstances.

The importance of this principle for the MSF cannot be overestimated. Whereas the condition of the strategic striking forces (Strategic Offensive Forces in the US and Strategic Missile Forces in the Russian Federation) is to enable them to deliver a retaliatory strike on the enemy within tens of minutes, the time for responsive actions in outer space is reduced to just a few minutes and even seconds.

The rigidity of requirements for the constant combat readiness of troops and the constant combat-ready condition of space assets is complicated by the fact that space-based weapons will not be permanently “here, at hand”: During most of their active existence, CSVs will be in space zones not directly controlled from friendly territories, but their combat readiness must be constantly monitored.

Complete Exertion of Moral and Physical Strength of Personnel, Use of the Moral and Psychological Factor for Performing a Combat Mission by MSF Military Units

The comment was made in the first part of this article12 that, for several reasons, combat missions in and from space would be performed by highly automated, and in some cases, automatic combat assets. At the same time, it would be imprudent to think that armed struggle in space will be a war of robots.

The onboard control systems in CSVs can have combat algorithms incorporated into them that allow them to function in various combat situations. These algorithms can even have the in-built capability of adapting to certain situational changes in the combat situations they are designed for. However, foreseeing all possible developments during armed struggle in orbit is impossible. Not only combat but life experience teaches us that circumstances may develop in an incredible manner. Circumstances may also be formed intentionally by the enemy (for provocative purposes). Therefore, it would be extremely rash to delegate decision-making authority to technological systems in a situation that is balancing “between war and peace.”

Humans must retain control over the functioning of combat equipment under any circumstances. There is a reason why, quite recently, all military encyclopedias and dictionaries have applied the term “combat employment” exclusively to military units – i.e., to troops – whereas concerning combat equipment, they have used the term “combat use.” Therefore, when it comes to the combat use of space weapons that are by definition collective weapons whose effective combat functioning will depend on the efforts of many military professionals, the principle of the complete exertion of the moral and physical strength of personnel and consideration of the moral and psychological factor for performing a combat mission remains extremely important.

Stable and Continuous Command and Control of Troops

Command and control of troops assigned to waging combat in and from space is a very complicated problem that will require much theoretical and practical work to solve.

It is absolutely evident that MSF command and control will be based on well-known principles: unity of command, scientific approach, and anticipation.

Thus, unity of command, while continuing to be based on the collective preparation of decisions for operating in combat situations, undoubtedly implies the personal responsibility of commanders not only for implementing these decisions, but also for their results. However, this also implies that every commander, after performing a combat mission assigned by a superior commander, must take a creative approach to performing it within their section of armed struggle in the SpTO, without expecting any additional orders and instructions “from above.”

Unlike any other armed service, the MSF must observe the scientific approach principle in their command and control. That is because no matter how high the rank of a chief issuing orders like “Ensure SV patrolling over city X” or “Establish an SV orbit that adapts to and replicates the curves of a coastline,” the nature of outer space itself would not permit the execution of such orders. Command and control of MSF units during their combat employment can be properly organized by commanders-engineers who not only possess military knowledge but are well versed in the theoretical basis of the design and functioning modes of space equipment, have practical skills, and are capable of working out new methods of using combat space assets whose functioning is based on physical principles very different from terrestrial laws of nature.

It should be noted that the specific features of the considered tactical categories in their space application will require educating and training experts who have not just knowledge of space equipment and the nature of space but also skills relating to the effective use of combat space assets.

Finally, anticipating the possible course of armed confrontation in space and forecasting probable preemptive steps and the enemy’s responses to them is also a key principle that must be scrupulously observed when controlling MSF units.

The anticipation by military professionals in MSF units of combat situations that may arise in space after the start of combat operations must be reflected in expertly formulated military operational requirements (MOR) for space weapons. This also will enable specialists in the military industrial complex (MIC) to preliminarily invent, model, and implement in mathematical programs and combat algorithms the controlling influences to be embedded in the onboard controlling systems of CSVs so that if such (or similar) situations occur in combat, the automatic equipment of the space weapons could immediately respond to them.

Also important when organizing control over MSF units are general requirements for troop command control: continuity, stability, promptness, and concealment. Naturally, when observing these standard troop command and control requirements within the MSF, the specific features of the combat employment of their military units must be considered.

Conformity of MSF Units’ Combat Missions to Their Combat Capabilities

It should be noted that recently the importance of observing this principle has started to be pointed out even with respect to tactical combined arms units, which have always been considered all-purpose units for conducting combat within a continental TO. Nevertheless, now it is pointed out that given the wide range of combat assets used in war, as well as the diversity of techniques and methods of armed struggle, this principle “requires thorough assessment of the situation; selection of the most rational pattern of battle dispositions; determination of optimal ways to perform combat missions with due account for the enemy’s actions; and consideration of the qualitative condition of friendly forces and assets, as well as the degree of the troops’ combat skills, preparedness of commanders and staffs, and the combat experience of personnel.”13

However, if these days even the Ground Forces, whose combat experience surpasses that of any other armed service, have concluded that it is necessary to use different military units specially trained for different types of combat, then what can be said about the specialization of troops for conducting armed struggle in and from space?

Organization and Maintenance of Continuous Interaction Among MSF Units and Information Exchange Among SVs in Orbital Groups

As has been mentioned many times, space weapons will become weapons whose combat use will depend on the coordinated activity of many military teams.

Starting from the preparation and launching of a CSV into space by forces ensuring its launch, all subsequent stages of the functioning of this combat equipment will be accompanied by actions of the following MSF military units:

• the command and measurement complex (CMC), which is responsible for adding the CSV to an OG, monitoring the onboard systems, and keeping each CSV in combat readiness in orbit

• military units of the Space Surveillance System (SSS) that monitor SVs (CSVs) in their orbits and the situation in the SpTO, catalog targets, and send signals if threatening situations emerge

• combat control centers responsible for working out plans for the functioning of CSV OGs in various situations, transmitting combat control signals, and supervising the results of the combat use of CSV OGs and other combat assets used for space operations.

It is obvious that effective combat use of antispace and strike space weapons is out of question without the continuous and very close interaction of all these military units of the MSF, with this interaction maintained during day-to-day activity and combat standby duty time, as well as in combat situations.

Determined Concentration of Efforts in the Main Direction
and at the Decisive Moment

This principle discovered by the Greek military leader Epaminondas in the 4th century B.C. and known ever since as the efforts concentration principle remains extremely important in modern military art. Everything suggests that this principle will remain relevant in the military art of the MSF.

If one briefly characterizes the directions of concentrating military force when organizing and conducting operations in and from space, it becomes clear that such operations must be connected to the function and role of space assets in the system of the Armed Forces’ strategic operations in various phases of the development of the military and political situation.

For example, it is possible to assume that during a period of threat, when there is the strategic deployment of the Armed Forces, when groupings of forward troops are concentrated in areas providing the most favorable conditions for launching an offensive or for repelling the first enemy attacks, and when striking assets reach the weapon use line, then the most important role is played by space reconnaissance assets enabling the opposing sides to monitor the direction of enemy troop movements, the movement of mobile forces carrying a striking nuclear potential, changes in battle dispositions of air defense (AD) troops, and the deployment of strategic and operational-strategic command posts and control centers. It is obvious that during this period, the main efforts must be aimed at countering enemy space reconnaissance assets to hinder their work and, ideally, prevent them from performing their principal missions.

After the start of combat operations, the priorities change: The top destruction priority is the enemy’s combat space systems, coordinate and time systems, combat control and communications systems, as well as space-based target acquisition assets. Accordingly, it will be necessary to concentrate the main efforts on disabling components of these systems, and not at random, but with due account for their potential threat to friendly operations during the assigned period.

Depending on assigned missions and methods of their execution, combat efforts may be concentrated within the combat formations of the enemy MSF (when the impact is concentrated on the terrestrial or orbital element of space forces and assets), in orbits where enemy SVs are functioning (with due account for altitudes and orbital inclinations), or on space-time parameters of SV functioning (for instance, for creating “gaps” in the formations of enemy SV OGs).

Suddenness of Actions and Use of Military Cunning (Deception of the Enemy). Decisiveness, Activeness, and Continuity of Combat Operations in and From Space

Considering the possibility of very accurately determining and calculating the prolongation of the current navigational parameters (CNP) of SVs, which do not have propulsion installations (PIs) or move with PIs switched off, each of the opposing parties in space can forecast the position of such SVs in space at a given time. Therefore, it is impossible to ensure the suddenness of the combat use of such CSV from a direction that is unexpected for the enemy. Suddenness of actions and deception of the enemy in space may only be ensured when a CSV performs a sudden maneuver; when a CSV is abruptly picked out of the operational reserve (as a surprise for the enemy); when a CSV is disguised as an economic, scientific, or dual purpose SV (dual purpose, but supporting in nature); or when there is an abrupt change of the characteristics that determine the outlook of the CSV – for example, with the help of remotely controlled antiradar coatings.14

Much can change in the opportunities for implementing this tactical principle with the advent of CSVs based on high power loading (HPL) platforms, making it possible to perform orbital maneuvers depending on an emerging situation and the concept of the executed operation.

When talking about decisiveness, activeness, and continuity of combat operations in and from space, one should evidently proceed from the fact that the nature of MSF activity must fully correspond to the concept and nature of operations of the Armed Forces as a whole.

Maneuvering by Military Units, Space Assets, Strikes, Destroying
and Neutralizing Impacts

Maneuvering by troops (forces), assets, and fire is one of the main components of modern tactics. This principle must also form the full basis of MSF activity, but to be fully implemented by space troops, many problems must be solved.

For example, the terrestrial element of the MSF must comprise combat control centers; SV launching forces; SV OGs controlling forces; and troops of space surveillance systems and early-warning systems. Work must be done to create and put into service with the MSF ASW strike assets and destructive systems. A prototype of such troops is currently the space troops, who are so far performing only supporting missions. Such troops exist as part of the armed forces of several states, including the Russian Armed Forces.

While having relatively limited numerical strength, these troops perform their missions using technologically advanced but primarily large and stationary weapons that cannot be maneuvered.

Nevertheless, there is experience creating mobile land-, sea-, and air-based assets for performing missions in space.

In the Russian Federation, the following has been done in this respect. For launching small space vehicles (SSVs), the Russian Federation has on several occasions successfully used modernized launchers of mobile land-based missile systems (MLBMSs) of the Strategic Missile Forces. SSVs have been launched into operational orbits using submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) launched from submerged strategic heavy missile underwater cruisers. The Sea Launch platform was created, which is a relocatable sea platform that makes it possible to launch medium-sized SVs into space. For controlling SVs beyond the zone of radio coverage from Russian territory, SV retransmission stations are used. A sea-based CMC was established, and later a Fazan-type mobile land-based CMC (MLBCMC) was made for controlling separate SV OGs from unequipped positions of the deployment areas of separate CMCs (SCMCs). Small-size equipment sets that make it possible to set up one-post SV control systems are under development. Some tasks of the SSS and NEWS were solved with the help of sea-based measurement complexes installed on Marshal Krylov-type ships.

Examples of Russian ASW systems established on relocatable and mobile bases are the Kontakt ASD system based on the MIG-31 heavy fighter bomber, the A60 Sokol Eshelon combat laser system based on the IL-76 transport aircraft, and the Peresvet combat laser system.

Similar assets have been developed in the US. In particular, F-15 heavy fighter bombers have been used as air carriers for antispace missiles in the ASAT system, and Ticanderoga-class guided missile (GM) cruisers of the US Navy have served as the launch platform of the SM-3 Standard missile, which was designed for a similar purpose.

Of course, many of these systems are still far from perfect, but a comparison, say, of aviation in the early 20th century and the mid-20th century, or of missile weaponry in the mid-20th century and the early 21st century, suggests the idea, formulated by Gen. Henri Jomini in his work Summary of the Art of War (1838), that weapons are improving at a frightening speed. The modest maneuvering capabilities of SVs functioning in their orbits have already been mentioned before, and to change this situation radically and enable a CSV to rapidly approach targets designated for destruction (neutralization) in space requires solving the onboard power supply problem.

Russia has its top priorities in this area: “It is a generally accepted fact that we are far ahead of the Americans in producing space reactors (nuclear ones), and they are quite concerned about our leadership in this respect. Surprisingly, poor Russia is now closer to creating strike space weapons using new physical principles than rich America. In parallel with developing the reactor, Russia is continuing work on a combat laser system. So far, it has been installed and tested on an IL-76 transport aircraft. After the tests are completed, the device can be installed on a space platform, where it will be coupled to a nuclear reactor. It is a ready-for-use combat module – a menace to enemy satellites.”15

A maneuver having destructive and neutralizing impacts on enemy space objects is also possible, but only when the technological characteristics of the combat platform allow for the redirection of the carried weapons in a wide range of directions from which the object to be destroyed (neutralized) may appear. Such requirements are especially important for CSVs carrying directed-energy weapons (DEWs). However, such a maneuver will also depend significantly on the energy characteristics of the impacting assets, because ultimately any weapons maneuver will be connected to the concentration of efforts either on certain types of SVs or on SVs functioning in a certain area of space. This means that combat weapons located in zones making it possible to destroy (neutralize) the enemy must possess the maximum possible power budget (PB) and consequently the longest possible range of enemy destruction in order to effectively perform a combat mission – i.e., to impact the assigned target even when it is far from the weapon’s carrier. Such distances in space may be very long. As mentioned above – for example, within a line-of-sight range making it possible to use the onboard DEW of a CSV launched into geostationary orbit (GSO) – there may be other SVs functioning in other orbits (which includes even an almost diametrically opposite segment of the GSO) within distances of up to ~83,000 km. In such cases, a large PB of the onboard weapons will make it possible to reduce the need for frequent maneuvering of the CSV.

Predeployment, Timely Buildup and Replenishment of the OGs of Combat and Supporting SVs. Protection of Troops and SV OGs During Combat Operations. Timely Restoration of Combat Capability
of MSF Units

The aggregate of these principles is directly connected to the combat capabilities of MSF military units and the combat readiness of their weapons, including those functioning in outer space.

The combat capability of troops implies the full strength of military units staffed with educated and trained personnel; the preparedness and cohesion of command and control bodies; and the maintenance of firm discipline in military units and their equipment with armament in good working order. Compliance with these principles by troops in the space forces’ terrestrial element fully meets requirements for their observance in all military units of the Armed Forces. However, the process of maintaining MSF space weaponry in combat-ready condition is developing somewhat differently.

The united SV OG of any country comprises orbital groups serving certain purposes, and the size of such groups can be quite large. In particular, these include SV OGs of a space radio navigation system (SRNS), which may include up to 30 or more navigational SVs functioning in circular orbits with altitudes of about 20,000 km. A communications and combat control OG may be even bigger – its devices are launched into various orbits within the close operational space zone, are deployed in high elliptical orbits, and occupy positions in a GSO. Increasingly widespread use is made of SSVs whose OGs may consist of hundreds of SVs.

Obviously, it is impossible to create any of these OGs in short order given the modern types of SV as well as the fleet of space launch vehicles (SLVs) used for lunching them. In connection with this, the principle of predeployment (even before military operations) must be strictly observed.

Like any other equipment, SVs have a limited active service life (ASL), and upon ASL expiry, the probability of their complete failure increases considerably. Moreover, it is evident that if military operations commence, the enemy will undoubtedly seek to attack SVs of the opposing side for the same purpose. Such attempts cannot be excluded in peacetime, especially when SVs are outside of areas monitored by national surveillance assets. In this connection, monitoring the technical condition and, consequently, the combat-ready condition of each SV is a key task of CMC units to be executed alongside the task of using SVs in accordance with their functional purposes.

If a situation arises when the complete failure of certain SVs leads to a breakdown in the operation of an OG or at least to the temporary disruption of the OG’s employment according to its functional purpose, the troops of the terrestrial space element of the MSF must do everything possible to build up or replenish the OG. This can be done by putting reserve SVs that are already in space into operation, but solving the problem may also require respective actions for launching SVs of this type.

Such actions will constitute one of the most important components in restoring the combat capability of MSF units armed with, for example, ASW assets. If the number of SVs not ready for combat within a CSV OG exceeds a certain limit, this can make the OG unfit for further use according to its functional purposes and, consequently, the respective military units in the terrestrial element of the MSF will become combat-ineffective.

Regarding the protection of troops and SV OGs from enemy attacks during combat operations, it should be noted that the terrestrial element of MSF troops must perform its missions independently and in cooperation with covering forces, while protection of the orbital element of the MSF may require establishing a special SV grouping designed for protection and defense (P&D) of the national orbital grouping as an integrated system.

Comprehensive Support of Combat Operations in and From Space

The MSF will require a wide variety of support for their operations. In this context, while the support of troops operating within the terrestrial element of space forces could, on the whole, remain standard and typical for other technologically intensive armed services, such as the Air Force or Navy, the types of support ensuring the functioning of the grouping of MSF assets in space, even if they preserve their traditional names, will nevertheless require a cardinal revision of the technologies and methods of performing the missions assigned to them.

Thus, particularly, let us start considering the various types of combat support:

1.       Reconnaissance – this will require expanding the boundaries of space monitored by its assets, at least throughout the whole strategic space zone (SSZ), and, in addition, this type of combat support will not only be obliged to provide monitoring of the situation in operational zones of the SSZ, but will also, if necessary, supply target acquisition data to ASW combat assets. In connection with these missions, this type of support should be called “reconnaissance and target acquisition.”

2.       Combat security (protection and defense) – in space, this type of combat support will require deploying friendly assets in the most important orbits of the operational space zones for performing combat missions to cover the SVs of friendly OGs. Such assets must be formed based on destructive CSVs and nonreusable SSVs operating within covering groups of the SV performing missions similar to the laying of terrestrial minefields; for P&D in space, use can be made of means of SV concealment, assets for changing environmental parameters around covered objects, etc.

3.       Electronic warfare (EW) support – these days, this type of combat support appears to be one of the most effective and promising means of not only counteracting SVs in space, but also of attacking terrestrial information facilities of the enemy from space.

For providing electronic suppression (ES) of radio-electronic assets (REA) functioning in space, use can be made of both land-based and space-based assets – the latter in the form of electronic warfare assets specially deployed in respective orbits of SV carriers. Space-based assets may also be used for ES of land-based REA.

As the available power of EW SVs increases and they acquire special onboard systems possessing a PB that makes it possible not only to neutralize but also to destroy radio-electronic equipment (REE), the possibility will emerge to make CSVs with radio frequency weapons (RFW). Considering that any SV functioning in space is a ballistic platform filled with as much REE as possible, it can be asserted that space combat will eventually become mostly EW.16 As Maj. Gen. V.Ye. Dulevich, chief of the radio engineering faculty at Mozhaisky Military Space Academy, taught his military students in the 1970s and 1980s while explaining the main principles of the operation of space systems, space operations are a combination of ballistics and radio engineering. Consequently, the organization of counteroperations against space systems must proceed primarily from consideration of these specific features. Such an approach gives grounds to believe that, in the future, EW will cease to be a type of operational (combat) support and turn into a full-fledged component of armed struggle, as happened with air defense and anti-tank defense some time ago.

4.        Radiation, chemical, and biological protection – this type of combat support will retain its importance in space, but its biological component will disappear, because, as mentioned above, outer space is so hostile to living organisms that it inherently provides protection against them. On the other hand, given the high levels of natural space radiation and the enemy’s capability of using radiation and chemical attack assets against friendly SVs, the need for such combat support remains evident.

5.        Engineering support – traditionally, this type of combat support is largely associated with stationary fortifications, minefields, artificial obstacles, etc., which restrict access to friendly troops (installations) or protect them from enemy actions. This task is still relevant in space, but the dynamics of space requires new forms and methods of accomplishing the task.

6.        Concealment support – this is another type of combat support needed for organizing and conducting combat operations in space. A feature of concealing various artificial space objects is the need to consider the high predictability of their position in orbit. Under these conditions, possible SV concealment methods include distorting the characteristics of SV configuration in combination with possible maneuvering in orbit; jamming to complicate the operation of enemy detection devices, including using various traps or changing the environmental conditions around an SV; simulating the complete failure of an SV as a result of its technological breakdown, etc.

7.        Coordinate and time (navigational-ballistic) support – a type of combat support functioning traditionally for space forces and creating conditions for taking, with required accuracy, periodic measurements of the current navigational parameters of SVs, and forecasting the positions of SVs and objects forming the space situation at a given time.

8.        Topogeodetic survey support – a type of combat support used by troops of the MSF terrestrial element for the topogeodetic survey of ground objects, for adjusting combat space assets, and for performing other missions that require the precise determination and knowledge of coordinates and directions on terrain.

An analog of this type of combat support required for the normal functioning of an OG is astronomic-geodetic support, which also forms a database for determining the positions of space objects in outer space.

9.        Calibration and adjustment support – a type of combat support that has been badly needed for a long time now, but this need will only grow when prospective space combat assets enter service, primarily DEWs.

The combat use of DEWs connected to the concentration of a high level of energy on the target requires constant monitoring of the technical condition and accuracy of relative positions of the design components in such a weapon, knowledge of the characteristics of the environment in which the irradiated energy is to propagate, account of the general shape and specific features of the target’s configuration, and precise calculation of the power of the generated radiation – to ensure guaranteed destruction of enemy assets.

Namely for this purpose, it will be necessary to deploy systems making it possible to direct radiation on calibration and adjustment assets and to make conclusions about the combat-ready condition of DEWs of CSVs and terrestrial antispace assets on the basis of such measurements.

As can be seen from the above, there is every reason to suppose that the deployment of combat systems that make it possible to conduct operations in and from space will radically expand the scope of armed struggle, reduce the time limits of situational changes in theaters of operation to a minimum, and intensify armed struggle.

It is evident that conducting combat operations in and from space will have operational-strategic and strategic implications, but the operations of military units armed with space weapons, as well as the functioning of space weapons associated with these operations and adequately corresponding to them, can be considered in the categories of MSF tactics.

In this connection, the categories of MSF tactics, considering the quantitative and qualitative changes introduced by the nature of space as a theater of operations and given the characteristics of space weapons deployed in space and on Earth and the forms and methods of the combat employment of troops armed with such weapons, fully correspond to the categories of the tactics of traditional combat arms and armed services.


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6. M. Vasilyev, “Kosmicheskiye perekhvatchiki [Space interceptors].” Voyenniy Parad [Military Parade], #6(90), 2008, November-December, pp. 56-58.

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9. V.F. Volkov, A.A. Shkolenko, Primeneniye kosmicheskikh sredstv pri obespecheniyi boevykh deystviy v zone Persidskogo zaliva: ucheb. posobie [Employment of Space Assets in Support of Combat Operations in the Persian Gulf Region: a manual]. MO RF [Russian Ministry of Defense], 1995.

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13. Ibid.

14. V. Volskiy, “Novoye oruzhiye na podkhode: chto izvestno o protivosputnikovom komplekse ‘Burevestnik’ [New Weapons Are About to Appear: What Is Known About the Burevestnik Anti-Satellite System].” Reportyor Tekhno. January 4, 2021. URL: https://topcor.ru/technology/ (Retrieved on January 20, 2023.)

15. V. Vladimirov, “Tretiy podkhod k rekordnomu vesu [Third Approach to the Record Weight].” Voyenno-Promyshlenniy Kuryer, #36 (651). September 21, 2016.

16. A.P. Kovalyov, S.A. Sotnik, “Radiochastotnoye oruzhiye — sredstvo radioelektronnogo udara [Radio Frequency Weapons as Radioelectronic Attack Assets].” Materials of the Fourth All-Russian Scientific and Practical Conference “Problems of the Employment of Space Forces and Assets in the System of Operations of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” at Mozhaisky Military Space Academy, October 26, 2018.