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AFSPC vice commander visits SMC detachment


The vice commander (and acting commander) of Air Force Space Command recently conducted a sweeping tour of AFSPC assets throughout New Mexico. 

When Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz visited Detachment 12 of the Space and Missile Systems Center here last week, he sat down with the Nucleus, Kirtland’s base newspaper, for a wide-ranging interview.

While it comes as no surprise the head of a command charged with defending the United States through the control and exploitation of space has a grasp of the issues concerning the high frontier, General Klotz also comes uniquely qualified to discuss international relations and the importance of cultural diversity.

Between his current position at AFSPC and past assignments, as a Rhodes Scholar, the defense attaché to Moscow and a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the general was prepared to discuss issues ranging from current events happening on the ground to the future of the heavens above.

During the interview, General Klotz also spoke of the importance of Kirtland AFB, citing the base’s history of development, operations, maintenance, sustainment, security and support of the Nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile force and the wide array of agencies located on the installation.

“We stood up the Nuclear Weapons Center here, Sandia is located here, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Air Force Safety Center both have a major presence here,” said General Klotz. “In addition, you have Air Force Research Laboratory, with its close partnership with Det. 12, so an awful lot of activity going on at this base applies directly to what we do at Air Force Space Command.”

To help define the importance of space to modern life and military operations, General Klotz borrowed a quote from former AFSPC Commander Gen. Lance Lord, emphasizing, “Space is a lot like oxygen, when you have it, you don’t give it a second thought. When you don’t have it, it’s the only thing you want.” Speaking of space as the “global enabler,” General Klotz explained how everyone is impacted by space whether they realize it or not. “Space is integral to all the aspects of our life,” he said, citing widespread use of the Global Positioning System in automatic teller machines, self-serve gasoline pumps, satellite radio and even on tractors plowing the farms of the Midwest as specific examples.

In terms of military applications, the general explained, “There is no way we could conduct modern military operations without space,” and spoke of the importance of Det. 12, calling it “an organization at the forefront of developing and testing space systems.”

What follows are highlights from an interview with one of the Air Force’s top officials.

On visiting AFSPC sites
“As a commander, one of the most important things you must do is get out from behind your desk, go out and see your operation, and meet face-to-face with the people working within those organizations so they can tell you what they do and give you a better understanding of the operation. They can also tell you what they need to do their job better so that you can better take care of them.”

On international affairs, understanding other cultures and the importance of diversity
“The United States is one of the few world powers in the sense that we have interests virtually spanning the globe. As a result, our military forces in both peacetime engagement and humanitarian relief operations are involved in almost every corner of the globe. 

“It’s absolutely vital we grasp the languages, the cultures and the history of the regions of the people with which we’re dealing. 

“The great thing about the Air Force is that we highly value and celebrate diversity within our ranks. We are stronger as an Air Force; we are stronger as a Nation when we draw upon the talents and energy of everyone without exclusion. Within Air Force Space Command, you will find extraordinarily successful officers, NCOs and Airmen of all backgrounds.

“The importance of space is that it’s a global enabler. Wherever you live, you’re going to use space to communicate in some way to live life in the 21st century. Space is going to be an integral part of everyday life. So no matter where you’re from or what your job is, understanding space is important.” 

The future of space
“Within the next several years, the Air Force will launch new communications satellites, new weather satellites and new early warning satellites that will be even more capable and more effective than the ones which they replaced. Just as the Air Force is in the process of recapitalizing its fighter force, its transport force and its tanker force, we’re in the process now of recapitalizing and modernizing our satellite systems.”

“We’re going to adopt what we call a ‘block approach’ to fielding new satellites. Instead of trying to put only the most advanced, technically challenging technology into a satellite in development and thereby driving up cost and extending the schedule for launch, we will build and launch satellites with technology that has been matured. As we launch successive versions of that satellite, we will continue to upgrade the technology.” 

Parting thoughts
In closing, the general spoke of the importance of protecting space. “Space is absolutely essential to our daily lives and the United States, the global economy, and the way we conduct military operations,” said the general. “It is very important that the assets we have in space be available at all times. One of the roles of AFSPC is to protect our assets in space and, if necessary, prevent an adversary from using space against us.”

What every Airman should know about space
High speed, high data rates of communications: Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines depend upon satellites like the Defense Satellite Communication System and Milstar constellations and the next-generation Wideband Gapfiller and Advanced EHF constellations for receiving information about targets and for communicating at great distances. 

Precise position, timing and navigation signals: Global Positioning System satellites enable troops to navigate across featureless desert terrain or Sailors and Airmen to navigate across the ocean and through the air.

Precision targeting: Today, a single B-2 can engage multiple targets in a single mission using GPS-enabled joint direct attack munitions. When you see gun camera footage of munitions going through a specific window of a specific story of a specific building, that precision is made possible by GPS.

Weather satellites: A critical factor all military services have to deal with when planning operations is what the weather will be like in the target area of operations or area through which they have to pass in order to get to the target. It is the weather satellites, whether in low-earth orbit or at geosynchronous orbits which provide this forecasting capability.