Space Force

How to Fight and Win the Next Space War

Space Strategies Center - National@Policy.Space


Participate in my latest Space Warfare research. See below links:

1.) Sun Tzu's "Art of War" Applied to Space War

2.) Continuing Space War Research

Space War Theory

There is a lot of recent talk concerning a Space Force and the probability of space wars in general. I will not discuss the pros and cons of military space organizational structures. What I will talk about, though, are the foundational principles by which future space wars can be won. These may be derived from classical military thinkers such as Sun Tzu[1] or Clausewitz[2]. This is because all wars are fundamentally conducted by people, no matter how technologically sophisticated their weapon systems are. After studying military history for 50 years, I can only conclude that wars are fought between opposing commanders’ minds, and not necessarily their machines of war. Military commanders are fighting their opposing commander’s intelligence, education, culture, training, experience, doctrine, stamina, fortitude, fear, hatred, etc. The way commanders communicate to their opposite side is through their soldiers and weapon systems. This is why certain strategies such as surprise or application of mass attacks are just as applicable today in futuristic space systems, as they were 2,500 years ago in a Greek phalanx[3].

The second important concept I need to state here is that how one conducts war (military doctrine) is the most important aspect of winning conflicts. There are many, many examples in military history where one force that appeared superior on paper was summarily defeated by a much “inferior” force due to better doctrinal concepts and implementations. Going back to past history, using the World War II model, it’s interesting how quickly the Germans developed the doctrine and strategies to execute the biggest military defeat of major powers in the 20th century. General Heinz Guderian, the proponent and leader of German armored blitzkrieg warfare, did not even ride in a tank until 1929, just 10 years before his tanks were starting to conquer Europe. His book, “Achtung - Panzer!”[4] on the theory of armored warfare, was not even published until 1937, just 2 years before his tanks invaded Poland. Due to the Versailles Treaty, Germany was not allowed to build major tanks. Germany’s first tank, the very weak MK I, was not fully deployed to their troops until 1935, just 4 years before the start of World War II.

It’s amazing that with so short a time period for development of armored warfare theory, doctrine, equipment and training before operational employment, that the Germans were so successful in knocking out the French and British forces so early in the invasion of France, especially since the Allies had 8 months to prepare defenses and train forces during the Phony War of September 1939 to May 1940. At the start of the invasion, the Allies had a 17 to 1 advantage in number of tanks over the Germans, and their tanks were better armored and had better armament than the Germans. They had the Maginot Line. So why did the Germans beat the Allies so soundly and so quickly? The simple answer was the Germans had the advantage of starting from scratch with developing armored warfare, due to being defeated in World War I, which required new, original thinking. They simply had better armored doctrine than the Allies at the beginning of World War II, which led to their spectacular victories over them.

Does all of this sound familiar for future space warfare where the strategies and tactics for massed combat in space have not yet been proven for any country? When was the last time the air war was in doubt for the United Sates (75-80 years ago?). Have we grown complacent in our thinking that we always ultimately win wars against major combatants? Do we always fight the last war in our military planning? These concerns are why I started developing foundational principles for outer space warfare. Some of the topics discussed in this paper are listed in Table 1. In addition, some of the fundamental questions that need to be answered for space warfare commanders by efficient Battle Management, Command and Control (BMC2) systems are listed in Table 2

  1. Space Principles of War
  2. Space Conflict Termination Criteria
  3. Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” Applicability to Space Warfare
  4. Top 40 Rules to Fight and Win the Next Space War
  5. Space Conflict Escalation Control
  6. General Space Doctrine







Table 1  Fundamental Space Warfare Doctrine Discussed



  1. Will Space Systems be Under Attack in the Near Future?
  2. Are Space Systems Currently Under Attack?
  3. Who Is Attacking?
  4. What is the Adversary’s Attack Strategy?
  5. What Damage Has Been Caused to Military Capabilities?
  6. What Is the Optimal Blue COA Response?




Table 2  Fundamental Space Warfare Questions


Principles of Space War

A long time ago I conducted a study of classical military “Principles of War” (United States tri-service, British, Russian) that were then combined, summarized and updated for Space Warfare. This study was for the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff when they were trying to decide whether to establish a Space Command or a Continental Defense Command. These basic Principles are listed in Table 3:

  1. Objective
  2. Offensive
  3. Mass
  4. Economy of Force
  5. Maneuver
  6. Unity of Command
  7. Security
  8. Surprise
  9. Simplicity


Table 3  Principles of Space War


Detailed discussions of space warfare implications for the Principles of War are given below:

  1. Objective
    1. Terrestrial: “Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive, and attainable objective with measurable effects”
    2. Space: Are your objectives to take out an individual satellite or a total system capability that may be supported by both satellites and ground systems? Will taking out the satellite be decisive in denying that category of information? Does it have a measurable impact on the battlefield? Which military objectives does this system support? Is satisfaction of this objective achievable? Are there branches and sequels to space control operations plans if they fail or if they are successful?


  1. Offensive
    1. Terrestrial: “Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative”
    2. Space: Is there political will to start a space war at the beginning of a terrestrial conflict and seize the space initiative, or is taking out ground sites supporting space sufficient to achieve objectives? Are we setting the time, place and terms of the space battle? Does the battle tempo include space attacks on a continuing basis to keep the adversary off-balance? Can space weapon systems sustain continuous attacks? Is there a pre-approved ramp-up of space attack severity to exploit successes for further gain?


  1. Mass
    1. Terrestrial: “Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time”
    2. Space: Are there sufficient weapons to achieve continuous, or sustained space control? Can the adversary re-configure his space systems to avoid attack? Are the space weapons overwhelming to the military function they are trying to deny? Is there political will to implement massed space attack? Can space weapons get into position at the decisive place and time? Do we actually know the decisive place and time for space weapons application? Can space weapons be synchronized for employment simultaneously?


  1. Economy of Force
    1. Terrestrial: “Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts”
    2. Space: Are all space control efforts and weapon systems integrated into one deployment/employment plan? Is the target list optimal with minimal weapons use? Are different phenomenology weapons use integrated? Are the results of space control decisive to the battlefield? Are all space control systems employed purposefully at all times of the conflict, even in delay, limited or deceptive kinds of attacks that focus the adversary’s attention away from the main space attack?


  1. Maneuver
    1. Terrestrial: “Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power”
    2. Space: Have space weapons been deployed in optimal positions and time-space phasing? What is the effect on the adversary of weapons use? Has the “high ground” of space above the battlefield been won? Are there critical orbits/time phasing/launch corridors/communications paths around the world contributing to the battlefield that need space superiority consideration? Has access to space been denied to the adversary and his allies, and optimized for blue side and allies? Has blue freedom of action been maximized while minimizing red freedom of action in space? Are points of application of space control weapons constantly shifted to confuse adversary response, and avoid predictable patterns of operation, for survivability reasons?


  1. Unity of Command
    1. Terrestrial: “For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort”
    2. Space: Have space control, info war, and air/ground attack plans been integrated with each other and with intelligence collection requirements? Does the “classic” target allocation process give sufficient consideration of space/info targets? Is there adequate space/info war delineation of chain of command and decision responsibility? Are space target lists traceable back to objectives (both red and blue)? Do blue and red terrestrial commanders appreciate the importance of space to their conduct of the war? Since space is global, have blue allies been part of the space warfare decision-making processes?


  1. Security
    1. Terrestrial: “Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage”
    2. Space: Are space forces, including weapon systems, survivable in the battlefield environment? Have OPSEC (Operations Security) and fratricide concerns been met? Have blue space choke points (orbits/time phasing/launch corridors/communications paths), centers of gravity (TT&C and launch sites), logistics, and command structures been identified and protected? Does blue have alternative space-related sensor, processing, command, and communications paths? Are red space strategies, tactics, doctrine, organization, commanders and intentions assessed?


  1. Surprise
    1. Terrestrial: “Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared”
    2. Space: Are space control weapons existence known to an adversary, or does he know they have been deployed to the theater, or do they have war operating modes to surprise the enemy by their use? Are there a series of surprise space control weapons that can be alternated in use to maintain cover? Is the use of these weapons detectable or attributable to a specific country by an adversary? Timing and tempo of space weapon use can surprise also, even if their existence is known. Threats of weapon use, even if the weapon does not currently exist, can effectively surprise.


  1. Simplicity
    1. Terrestrial: “Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding”
    2. Space: How complex are space weapons, and are the effects of their use easily understandable by non-space blue and red commanders (do they know they’ve been hurt bad)? Are there branches and sequels to space control operations if they fail or if they are successful?


Other Military Considerations

  • Have You Delineated the Definition of “Wining” the Space War?
  • Do Space COA’s Have Well-Defined Goals, End States, Branches, Sequels & Expected Action-Reaction Consequences?
  • Does the Space COA’s Vary Employed Space Weapon Phenomenology Types & Basing Locations?
  • Has Space Strategy / Tactic Been Tried Before?
  • Space COA’s Ability to Surprise / Confuse, Shock & Awe Adversary
  • What is the Ability of your Adversary to Frustrate Space COA Preparations, Execution, and Attack Verifications?

Other Political Considerations

  • Is There Decisive Political Will to Execute Space COA’s and Accept Potential Trans-Conflict & Post-Conflict Consequences?
  • Can Space Weapon Employment Approval be Gained in a Timely Manner from Higher Authorities?
  • What are Executed Space COA’s Impacts on Space Alliances & Treaties (both Blue and Red)?
  • Will Space COA Execution Re-Align Both Blue & Red Allies?
  • Space COA Execution Impact on United States Population Attitudes About War in Space
  • Space COA Execution Impact on Post-Conflict Commercial / Civil Use of Space
  • Is the Intended Target Employed by Both Military & Commercial / Civil Users that May Require Surgical Targeting?

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