The Hawaii Air National Guard is expected to take on a new space mission with the Air Force announcing that the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai is the preferred location for a Pacific-based space control squadron, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz’s office said today.
The Air Force “will create a new, highly technical squadron to monitor U.S. satellites in support of the national security space mission, ensuring that the military and other national security agencies have access to satellite communication, intelligence, and key information,” according to the Hawaii lawmaker’s office.
The Hawaii Air National Guard said in January it was seeking to add offensive space electronic warfare capability to its mission set with such a squadron.
The unit will include 88 new Hawaii Air National Guard positions, including 29 full-time positions and 59 part-time, drill-status positions.
“This decision reaffirms the importance of Hawaii’s strategic role in our national security …,” Schatz, lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on military construction and veterans affairs, said in a release. “While this new unit will help strengthen the Air Force’s space capabilities and advance our national security interests, it also means more federal funds for the state and more opportunities for local jobs.”
The Hawaii Air National Guard activated two new units in August — the 298th Air Defense Group and the 298th Support Squadron.
The 298th Air Defense Group’s mission is to detect, monitor, identify and assist in intercepting airborne threats to Hawaii and Guam via airspace monitoring in both locations.
In a ceremony at the creation of the new units, Brig. Gen. Ryan Okahara, commander of the Hawaii Air Guard, said plans call for two wings in the Air Guard — one with a flying mission and another that’s more space and cyber oriented.
The steps come with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper establishing U.S. Space Command Aug. 29 as the eleventh unified combatant command.
“To ensure the protection of America’s interests in space we must apply the necessary focus, energy, and resources to the task – and that is exactly what Space Command will do,” Esper said.
Establishing Space Command “is the next critical step towards the creation of an independent Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” Esper said.
Several space control squadrons already exist in the Air National Guard across the United States. The 138th Space Control Squadron was activated in June in Colorado.
The Air Force said the unit’s mission is to provide global electronic attack capabilities.
“Until recently, space was considered a benign environment where our abilities to communicate, navigate and even conduct business and commerce were uncontested,” Lt. Col. James Reeman, the unit’s commander, said in a release. “But now, potential adversaries seek to hold those freedoms at risk. We have to be more innovative and agile.”
The Air Force anticipates completing the Kauai space control squadron basing process by summer 2020, with the squadron becoming partially operational in fiscal year 2021 and fully operational by fiscal 2022.
Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said in the release that the Hawaii Air National Guard was one of the first units to respond to Kauai following April 2018 flooding.
“We welcome the additional employment opportunities for our local folks, particularly in the areas of science, math, and technology,” Kawakami said.