Space Force May Bring Launch Wings Under Systems Command

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.—Military officials are looking at putting the 30th and 45th Space Wings under a new Space Force Systems Command to group the launch-focused organizations with others that handle procurement rather than warfighting.

“In the [reorganization], we have seen different models where perhaps these two, the Western range and the Eastern range, they could go on to another field command like Systems Command,” Combined Space Operations Center boss Col. Scott Brodeur told Air Force Magazine in a recent interview here. “One of the things that’s on the table is, how do we look at our space launch organization in the future?” 

Vandenberg houses the 30th Space Wing, while Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., is home to the 45th Space Wing.

SpaceNews reported Jan. 24 that Systems Command also could oversee major acquisition groups like the Space and Missile Systems Center, Space Rapid Capabilities Office, and the Space Development Agency—similar to Air Force Materiel Command’s oversight of procurement and sustainment for USAF assets.

Col. Anthony Mastalir, who runs the 30th SW and the Western Launch and Test Range about an hour from Santa Barbara, added that putting launch procurement and range sustainment organizations together can create new synergies as they pursue the “range of the future.” The wing hosts military, civil, and commercial launches and is home to parts of the missile testing and missile defense enterprises.

“There would be a great, great advantage to being closely aligned in terms of having not just the folks who acquire the systems that we use on the range, but also acquire the boosters … to be used for launching payloads,” Mastalir said. “Have those folks sit side-by-side, figuratively speaking, with the folks that are actually preparing the range, bringing those boosters on, and then executing the launch.”

Both officials noted a final decision hasn’t been made. But regardless of the outcome, those organizations won’t be called wings anymore. That’s an Air Force term, Brodeur said, and Space Force planners are trying to define their own structure instead of using what already exists in USAF.

Combat operations-focused groups like the 21st, 50th, and 460th Space Wings would instead present their capabilities to the parts of the Space Force that handle missions like daily maneuvering of satellites and defense of American space assets. Further changes are coming to ops wings, too.

“We are orienting ourselves to mission areas, so space electronic warfare, space domain awareness, command and control, orbital warfare, [satellite communications],” Brodeur said. “These things are all going to have tactical units under [them], but instead of having just a wing that does all space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, and missile defense, there will be each of those things. There will be a missile warning thing. There will be a space EW thing. They just haven’t decided on the names.”

Even though the wings have different missions, Mastalir said the service members who work on the launch enterprise are cultivating a warfighting culture in a similar way as those who manage the communications or navigation satellites that support troops below.

“Assured access to space isn’t the same as flying GPS,” he said. “But the young airman who’s flying GPS would never have that opportunity if we didn’t have access to space. So it starts here. And when you think about the test component of what the range provides, … being able to demonstrate the lethality and the resiliency of our nuclear deterrent in this country, it’s a pretty awesome responsibility that our Airmen take very seriously.”