071818 Combined Space Ops 03.jpg (copy)

Members of combined armed forces from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia watch video monitors in the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in this July 18, 2018, file photo. Military leaders recently revealed that VAFB will house a major component of the not-yet-launched U.S. Space Command.

Although the U.S. Air Force has yet to select a headquarters for its planned U.S. Space Command operation, military leaders have revealed that one of the new command’s major components will be housed at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The 14th Air Force personnel located at VAFB are slated to become a dual-purposed staff under the Combined Force Space Component Command.

Through the new component, personnel at Vandenberg will support the U.S. Space Command by providing the United States and its allies with space-related services — like GPS tracking and missile warnings — to help with ground-based missions.

“That component will focus on working with allies and partners to support the geographic combatant commanders and allied countries with space effects for terrestrial warfighters,” Maj. Cody Chiles, a Joint Force Space Component Command spokesman, said Tuesday.

A separate component of the yet-to-be-established U.S. Space Command is set to be housed at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

That component will focus on protecting and defending military assets in space, such as satellites in orbit.

The Vandenberg component will be led by Air Force Maj. Gen. Stephen Whiting, who is expected to fill two roles as the commander of both the 14th Air Force and the Combined Force Space Component.

Last month, Air Force Gen. John Raymond was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as commander of the U.S. Space Command.

Chiles noted that a ceremony to formally launch the new component at VAFB will likely be scheduled after the U.S. Space Command is officially up and running.

The Combined Force Space Component Command isn’t expected to immediately alter current operations at Vandenberg; however, it will actively work to strengthen the multinational partnerships Space Command needs to preserve the space advantage for joint and coalition warfighters, Chiles said.

State of the Wing: Vandenberg Air Force Base to see rise in launches, just not right away

The next major announcement expected from the Air Force — which could have a significant impact on Vandenberg — will be where exactly the military branch decides to place its U.S. Space Command headquarters.

In May, Air Force leaders revealed that VAFB was one of six locations being considered for the U.S. Space Command, which was established in December 2018 by President Donald Trump as the 11th functional Unified Combatant Command of the U.S. military.

The five other locations under consideration include Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Buckley, Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases, all in Colorado, as well as Redstone Arsenal in Alabama.

A final decision on the headquarters is expected by summer's end.

VAFB’s candidacy was supported in a May letter to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson that was signed by local Democratic leaders, including Congressman Salud Carbajal, Sen. Diane Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris, who is also a 2020 presidential hopeful.

Col. Michael Hough, the commander of the 30th Space Wing at VAFB, touched on the topic during a presentation Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Santa Maria.

Hough noted that the United States has used space as a “force multiplier” to win wars, but “our enemies now have developed technology to take that away from us.”

“So our effort now, to get after that problem, is to stand up this U.S. Space Command,” Hough said. “It’s a combatant command to look at how are we going to defend what’s in space, or how are we going to be able to fight a war, if you will, in space.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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