On December 19, 2019, the President signed legislation which created the sixth military service branch, the United States Space Force (USSF). While the USSF is a separate military service branch, it falls under the Department of the Air Force in a similar arrangement to the US Marine Corps which falls under the Department of the Navy.
IThe Congressional legislation did two things that had caused a lot of confusion in regard to USSF organization. Not only did it create a new military service, it also redesignated Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), headquartered at Peterson AFB, Colorado, as the USSF. So there are currently two organizations sharing the same name: USSF the military service and USSF, an Air Force Major Command. On December 20, 2019, the Secretary of the Air Force issued an order officially redesignating AFSPC as the USSF (see order below). Confusing? Very! Additionally, Fourteenth Air Force (14 AF) at Vandenberg AFB, California was redesignated as Space Operations Command (SpOC). While this designation implies a Major Command, it’s still a Numbered Air Force equivalent. More confusing? Absolutely!
The SECAF order placed all former AFSPC organizations and personnel under USSF (the major command). On March 31, 2020, the Secretary of the Air Force announced that 23 USAF units or portions of a unit would transfer to the USSF in the next three to six months. Where these organizations would be assigned was not specified. This list included (* indicates partial mission transfer (i.e., size of a flight, branch or division or above)):
Air Combat Command (ACC) Organizations
- 7th Intelligence Squadron (IS), Ft. Meade, Maryland*
- Sixteenth Air Force Advanced Programs*, JBSA Lackland, Texas
- 17th Test Squadron (TS), Schriever AFB, Colorado
- 18 IS, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
- 25th Space Range Squadron (SRS), Schriever AFB, Colorado
- 32 IS, Ft. Meade, Maryland*
- 328th Weapons Squadron (WPS), Nellis AFB, Nevada
- 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (SAS), Schriever AFB, Colorado
- 566 IS, Buckley AFB, Colorado*
- 544th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group (ISRG) Staff, Peterson AFB, Colorado
- 544 ISRG Detachment 5, Peterson AFB, Colorado
- 705th Combat Training Squadron (CTS) Operating Location-A (OL-A), Schriever AFB, Colorado
- USAF Warfare Center (USAFWC) Detachment 1, Schriever AFB, Colorado
Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Organizations
- 533rd Training Squadron (TRS), Vandenberg AFB, California
- National Security Space Institute (NSSI) Peterson AFB, Colorado
Air Force Material Command (AFMC) Organizations
- Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) Mission Execution, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio*
- AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico*
- AFRL Rocket Propulsion Division, Edwards AFB, California*
- AFRL Electro-Optical Division, Maui, Hawaii & Kirtland AFB, New Mexico*
- AFRL Sensors Directorate, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio*
National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) Organizations
- Counter-Space Analysis Squadron, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
- Space Analysis Squadron, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
USAF Direct Reporting Units and Field Operating Agencies
- Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) Detachment 4, Peterson AFB, Colorado
- Air Force Safety Center (AFSC) Space Safety Division, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
On June 30, 2020, the USSF announced its planned organizational structure. This new structure changed from the five echelon structure used by the USAF (Major Command, Numbered Air Force, Wing, Group, Squadron) to a three echelon structure (Field Command, Delta, Squadron). USSF also announced the designations for the new field commands: Space Operations Command (SpOC), Space Systems Command (SSC) and Space Training and Readiness Command (STARCOM).
To add more confusion to USSF organizational designations, the new SpOC field command is not the same SpOC at Vandenberg AFB, previously designated 14 AF. Instead, the USSF (major command) at Peterson AFB will be redesignated the SpOC (a field command). I surmise that the SpOC (previous 14 AF) designation will inactivate and revert to USAF control for future activation as the 14 AF.
On July 24, 2020, the USSF implemented a portion of organizational changes previously announced on June 30. These actions included the standup of the Deltas which effectively replaces Groups but has a status equivalent to an Air Force Wing. Here’s the rundown of the Group and Delta changes:
Groups inactivating on July 24, 2020:
- 21st Operations Group (OG), Peterson AFB, Colorado
- 50th Network Operations Group (NOG), Schriever AFB, Colorado
- 50 OG, Schriever AFB, Colorado
- 460 OG, Buckley AFB, Colorado
- 614th Air Operations Center, Vandenberg AFB, Colorado
- 721 OG, Peterson AFB, Colorado
- 750 OG, Schriever AFB, Colorado
Deltas activating on July 24, 2020:
- Space Delta 2 (Space Domain Awareness), Peterson AFB, Colorado. Absorbed a portion of the 21 OG mission. The missile warning mission previously performed by the 21 OG and the associated Space Warning Squadrons were transferred to Space Delta 4.
- Space Delta 3 (Space Electronic Warfare), Peterson AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the 721 OG mission.
- Space Delta 4 (Missile Warning), Buckley AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the 460 OG mission and the missile warning mission previously performed by the 21 OG.
- Space Delta 5 (Command and Control), Vandenberg AFB, California. Absorbed the 614 AOC mission.
- Space Delta 6 (Cyberspace Operations), Schriever AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the 50 NOG mission.
- Space Delta 7 (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance), Peterson AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the 544 ISRG mission. Space Delta 7 will eventually be responsible for additional intelligence functions and organizations being transferred from ACC and NASIC.
- Space Delta 8 (Satellite Communications/Navigation Warfare), Schriever AFB, Colorado. Absorbed 50 OG mission.
- Space Delta 9 (Orbital Warfare), Schriever AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the 750 OG mission.
- Space Readiness and Training Delta (Provisional), Peterson AFB, Colorado. STAR Delta is the precursor organization to the STARCOM which is projected to stand-up in 2021. STARCOM’s final location is to be determined as it requires a formal basing decision. The following units were transferred from ACC and attached to STAR Delta: 25 SRS, 527 SAS, 705 CTS OL-A and USAFWC Detachment 1. NSSI was transferred from AETC and attached to STAR Delta.
- 544 ISRG – Announcements do not indicate that the 544 ISRG was inactivated.
In the June 30th announcement it was implied that “installation support” would be a Delta, but the July 24th reorganization introduce a new type of organization — “Garrison”. In the USAF, since the 1990s, the operational Wing Commander at a base typically serves as the installation commander. Under the operational Wing Commander is a Mission Support Group (MSG) and a Medical Group (MDG) both with subordinate squadrons which execute the day-to-day responsibilities for keeping the installation running. In some instances, Air Base Wing (ABW) Commanders serve as an installation commander when no operational groups exist, there are multiple wings on a base, or when the Air Force is responsible for running a Joint Base. ABWs are similar to operational Wings except the lack operational Group(s) and as such have MSGs and MDGs.
The “Garrison” designation is modeled off the US Army where a “Garrison” is the organization responsible for running an Army installation (e.g. – “US Army Garrison Fort Carson”). Whle USSF is using the “Garrison” designation, it appears that the “Garrison” organizational structure being utilized matches an ABW. Below is the rundown of changes that occurred on July 24, 2020:
Wings inactivating on July 24, 2020:
- 21st Space Wing (SW), Peterson AFB, Colorado
- 50 SW, Schriever AFB, Colorado
- 460 SW, Buckley AFB, Colorado
Garrisons activating on July 24, 2020:
- Peterson-Schriever Garrison, Peterson AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the installation support mission of the 50 SW and a portion of the 21 SW’s. The missile warning installation support mission that was part of the 21 SW is now under Buckley Garrison. Responsible for the installation support to: Peterson AFB, Colorado; Schriever AFB, Colorado; Thule Air Base, Greenland; Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colorado; Kaena Point AFS, Hawaii and New Boston AFS, New Hampshire. It will also support 16 additional mission locations around the world. (As a side note, responsibility for Peterson and Schriever fell under one organization, the 3d Space Support Wing during the 80’s and early 90’s.)
- Buckley Garrison, Buckley AFB, Colorado. Absorbed the installation support mission of the 460 SW. Also absorbed missile warning installation support mission that was part of the 21 SW. Responsible for the installation support to: Buckley AFB, Colorado; Cape Cod AFS, Massachusetts; Cavalier AFS, North Dakota; Clear AFS, Alaska. It will also support 10 additional mission locations around the world.
- MSGs. It is unknown if the 21, 50 and 460 MSGs were inactivated or redesignated. The Peterson, Schriever and Buckley websites still reference MSGs with some still referred to by number and other referring to “XXX Garrison Mission Support Group”.
- MDGs. It is unknown if the 21 and 460 MDGs were inactivated or redesignated. The Peterson, Schriever and Buckley websites still reference MDGs with some still referred to by number and other referring to “XXX Garrison Medical Group”.
- AFS responsibilities. Installation support responsibilities for the AFS were typically embedded within the operational squadrons (e.g. – 6th Space Warning Squadron for Cape Cod AFS, Massachusetts). It is unknown if this is still the case.
- 821st Air Base Group (ABG). It is unknown if the 821 ABG at Thule AB, Greenland was inactivated or redesignated.
There were rumors that USSF would use a different designation for squadrons, but no announcement was made on July 24th.
So that’s the rundown of the USSF organization as of 7 August 2020. There remain many questions regarding lineage and honors for both the old and new organizations to include transfer of lineages from the USAF to the USSF. Hopefully we’ll find out more information in the next few months.