Poster Child

One glaring example of a fatal mismatch of strategic and tactical user requirements (see above) in a satellite system was the Space Radar, according to Air Force Space Command chief Gen. Robert Kehler. He told AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles Nov. 21 that the Space Radar, which was to have delivered fine-grained synthetic aperture radar imagery, was felled by the inability to reconcile strategic requirements with those of tactical operators “on one platform.” Either one could have been satisfied handily, but both together proved an insurmountable program challenge at the desired cost. “We have the technical capability” to produce either kind of Space Radar, Kehler said, but “it’s a requirements problem; we’re trying to satisfy everyone’s requirements.” He suggested going with a prototype version to work out some concepts and competing approaches. That approach has been deemed too expensive, but “you could decide to afford it if you need it enough,” he asserted. The program is emblematic of why major national security space programs are pricing themselves out of sight. “As demand goes up, the ability to meet demand with a common platform goes down,” he said. Kehler noted that every review of troubled space projects in the last 15 years has said the same thing: There are too many demands on each platform. He advocates a new space strategy and an improved relationship with the space industry. “I’m not sure what it was, but all of you say it used to be better.”