Pentagon Space Command leads Global Sentinel 2024 exercise in which the Space Surveillance Operations Centre is participating

How the satellites of Spain, the United States and their allies protect themselves from China and Russia

Global Sentinel 2024 se ha desarrollado en la base californiana de Vandenberg con la participación de un equipo de especialistas del Centro de Operaciones de Vigilancia Espacial - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman
Global Sentinel 2024 has been developed at California's Vandenberg AFB with the participation of a team of specialists from the Space Surveillance Operations Center - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman

The Spanish Air Force Space Command captained by the recently appointed Air Force Major General Isaac Crespo has taken part in Global Sentinel 2024. It is the most important multinational training exercise conducted annually by US SPACECOM, an acronym for US Space Command, an organisation headed since January by Lieutenant General Stephen Whiting. 

  1. Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru participated from Latin America
  2. Moscow and Beijing's new spy satellites worrying Washington

The joint Global Sentinel training aims to improve interoperability and outer space surveillance techniques, as well as to enhance operational cooperation between Washington's allies and partners.  Ultimately, the aim is to learn how to integrate military space power into global multi-domain operations and what tools to use to respond to critical situations and threats. 

Planners are intent on defending their common interests and deterring third powers, terrorist groups and criminal organisations from aggressive activities in the outer space domain. The US Space Command's intention is to demonstrate to China, Russia, North Korea and Iran that there is a group of nations "with shared interests, updating and sharing their knowledge and lessons learned in outer space security and sustainability," General Whiting stresses. 

Con asistencia de más de 250 técnicos militares y civiles en vigilancia espacial de dos docenas de naciones, la edición de 2024 de Global Sentinel ha tenido lugar durante dos semanas de febrero -PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman
With more than 250 military and civilian space surveillance technicians from two dozen nations in attendance, Global Sentinel 2024 took place over two weeks in February - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman

The intensive, classroom-based training took place over the past two weeks of February at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, on the Pacific coast, some 250 kilometres from Los Angeles. A team of airmen and civilian technicians from the Space Surveillance Operations Centre (COVE), a unit commanded by Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Manuel Olmos and based at the Torrejón air base in Madrid, travelled there. 

The first thing the Spanish team and the more than 250 specialists from the participating nations did was to select the more than 500 systems in orbit and nearly 90 on the ground with which to set up Regional Space Operations Centres (R-SpOCs). They then had to deal in real time with a wide variety of simulated scenarios and incidents that the exercise directors presented to them both day and night. 

El ejercicio de entrenamiento multinacional está organizado y liderado por el Mando Espacial de Estados Unidos, cuyo jefe desde enero es el teniente general Stephen Whiting, en imagen - PHOTO/US Space Force-John Ayre
The multinational training exercise is organised and led by US Space Command, whose chief since January has been Lieutenant General Stephen Whiting, pictured - PHOTO/US Space Force-John Ayre

Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru participated from Latin America

The teams, first national and then mixed, had to identify and track potential aggressor satellites, verify damage to their own platforms and practice evasive manoeuvres in orbit. They have also checked the status of sensors affected by solar flares, conducted satellite take-offs, used decoys to confuse offensive actions and supervised re-entries into the Earth's atmosphere of meteors and man-made objects. 

General Whiting has invited a total of 24 nations to participate in the 2024 edition of Global Sentinel. Most are European NATO members and Washington's strategic allies in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East. Latin American countries with strategic ties to Washington also participated.

Military and civilian personnel from the space components of Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom took part in the two-week intensive training from 5 to 16 February. 

Las naciones participantes son miembros de la OTAN y aliados de Washington del Indo-Pacifico, Oriente, América y Oceanía - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman
Participating nations are NATO members and Washington's allies from the Indo-Pacific, the East, the Americas and Oceania - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman

The Asian side was represented by Korea, Israel, Japan and Thailand, and the Oceania continent by Australia and New Zealand. The Ibero-American countries were Brazil, Peru and Colombia, the latter participating for the first time. Three other nations, Qatar, India and Mexico sent officials as observers. 

It is clear that the space domain has acquired an essential role in the sphere of global defence and security and is of growing importance in the development of military operations. The US Department of Defence, headed by Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, assigns a priority role to satellite observation and communications in each and every mission of its armed forces around the world. 

El equipo español del Centro de Operaciones de Vigilancia Espacial en pleno cometido de intentar resolver una de las muchas incidencias planteadas durante Global Sentinel 2024 - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman
The Spanish Space Surveillance Operations Centre team in the midst of trying to resolve one of the many issues raised during Global Sentinel 2024 - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman

Moscow and Beijing's new spy satellites worrying Washington

The Global Sentinel 24 exercise has been developed with US Space Command's concern about the scope of new military reconnaissance and strike capabilities that China and Russia have put into space over the past 12 months. 

The US Space Command General Staff is particularly concerned about the Yaogan-41 electro-optical satellite, launched in December and placed in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 36,000 kilometres over the Indo-Pacific region. Such a position gives it wide geographic coverage that enables it to track military vehicles, aircraft and ships, representing a "quantum leap" in China's observation capabilities, notes Clayton Swope, a former CIA space affairs analyst. 

Estados Unidos está alarmado por las nuevas capacidades de reconocimiento militar que China ha posicionado en el espacio, por ejemplo, el satélite radar SAR Ludi Tance-4 de alta resolución - PHOTO/CAST
The United States is alarmed by China's new military reconnaissance capabilities in space, for example the high-resolution SAR radar satellite Ludi Tance-4 - PHOTO/CAST

Another cause for alarm is the new high-resolution Ludi Tance-4 platform, the first with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) technology, positioned 36,000 kilometres over the same geographical area as the Yaogan-41 and capable of observing at night and in clouds. Sent into space last August, the combined imagery of Ludi Tance-4 and Yaogan-41 provides China with continuous surveillance over areas of its greatest strategic interest.  

Russia is alarmed by the intense pace of renewal of its spy satellite fleet. Last December, the Kosmos 2573 electro-optical reconnaissance satellite, the fifth in the Bars-M series, was placed in low orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometres. Just a few months earlier, in October, the Kremlin had positioned its seventh Lotos-S1 electronic intelligence platform at 900 kilometres. And in March it had sent another Bars-M, the Kosmos 2567, into space. 

Equipos nacionales como el de Noruega, en imagen, han tenido que rastrear potenciales satélites agresores, practicar maniobras de evasión en órbita y supervisado reentradas en la atmosfera terrestre - PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman
National teams such as Norway's, pictured, have had to track potential aggressor satellites, practice evasive manoeuvres in orbit and supervised re-entries into the Earth's atmosphere -PHOTO/US Space Force-Sgt Luke Kitterman

The US Space Command is also very concerned about reports from the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) that Russia is testing technologies capable of disabling on-board satellite systems, posing a serious threat to US National Security. 

Even the White House is concerned about the issue, so much so that on President Biden's orders, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan appeared before a group of congressmen and senators last week to brief them on the key aspects of the matter.

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