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S. Korean military launches branch dedicated to enhancing military space power

JCS takes lead in planning, executing joint space operations

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 2. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 2. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The South Korean military launched a new coordinating body to develop military space capabilities, as well as to plan and execute joint space operations, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Monday

“The Joint Chiefs of Staff established the Military Space Branch on Jan. 1 as a dedicated organization to lead our military’s development of military space capabilities,” the JCS said in a press statement, adding that the branch would play the role of “control tower.”

The Military Space Branch within the JCS directs military space-related affairs as a coordinating office to develop space and space-enabled capabilities based on cross-service cooperation across the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Notably, the JCS plays a key and leading role in national-level efforts to enhance military spacepower.

The JCS takes the responsibility for setting up military space strategy based on collaboration, as well as mapping out and deciding the mission of each force.

To achieve the strategic goals, the JCS also takes the initiative in establishing an operational concept of joint space operations and building up its executive system in connection with each operational command.

The JCS on Monday said it “has stepped up efforts in all areas to build military space capabilities,” including the launch of a project to formulate “doctrine of joint space operations,” which is a fundamental set of principles and the establishment of training systems against space threats.

The South Korean military has been intensively pushing forward space development projects since last year, after missile guidelines that had restricted Seoul’s missile developments were terminated. South Korea also launched its first domestically built satellite Nuri in October.

In November, South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook, JCS Chairman Gen. Won In-choul and the top brass of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps held their first full-scale meeting on plans to develop space capabilities.

Specifically, the JCS put earnest efforts last year into establishing and systemically pushing ahead with the military space capacity development plan as well as developing the execution system of joint space operations with other South Korean forces.

Notably, the JCS also issued a joint defense space strategy for the first time, which entails strategic goals, guidance for operating space forces and national defense space architecture.

Based on the defense space strategy, the JCS set up the mid- and long-term goal of building up future-oriented space capabilities by 2050 in connection with the development of space science and technology and proposed a blueprint to that end.

“Along with the efforts we’ve made so far, the JCS’s Military Space Branch would mark an important milestone as a military space power and become a stepping-stone for the development of each force’s military space capabilities,” the JCS said in the statement.

Yang Uk, an adjunct professor of national defense strategy at Hannam University, pointed out space has become the crucial part of battle spaces as the military pays attention to the growing importance and need of the Multi-Domain Operations in a complex security environment.

In this context, Yang underscored the necessity and significance of establishing a coordinating body especially as each military branch, including the Army, Navy, and Air Force, has been making individual efforts.

“This is the right timing given that each force, including the Army and Air Force, has begun setting up and deciding its role and mission (in space operations),” Yang told The Korea Herald. 

“Each force’s efforts are of course important. But it is more crucial to suggest ways to connect their efforts from a macro perspective at this juncture. Therefore, it is a very timely decision.”

By Ji Da-gyum (dagyumji@heraldcorp.com)
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