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Artillerymen Must Be Ready to Operate in Space Degraded, Denied Environments, Spacecom Leader Says

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The U.S. Space Command provides capability to warfighters, including those in precision fires; leaders involved in fires should also be prepared — and prepare soldiers — to operate without that space capability in case the environment is denied or degraded, the Spacecom commander said.

Spacecom provides, among other things, position navigation and timing, satellite communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and missile warning to warfighters, said Army Gen. James H. Dickinson, who spoke Wednesday at the 2021 Fires Conference at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Soldiers fire a large gun.
Training Time
Soldiers eject a shell from an M119 howitzer after it fires during a training exercise for field artillery advanced individual training students at Fort Sill, Okla., June 19, 2019.
Photo By: Gary Sheftick, DOD
VIRIN: 190619-D-LX472-005M
A soldier uses a device that sits on top of a tripod.
Inspection Time
First Lt. Marvin Perez uses an M2 aiming circle to inspect the position and azimuth of an M119A3 howitzer during the battalion’s live fire exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., Nov. 3, 2014.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Eliverto V. Larios
VIRIN: 141103-A-ZK259-432

"I'm responsible for providing that to you as the warfighter," he said. "I want to make sure you know where you're at. [I] want to make sure that you should know if that's been denied to you or degraded for you. In other words, when you go out to your units, when you become commanders, you should always remember that you may be in a degraded or denied environment."

Dickinson said he was pleased to see at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, that artillery soldiers were practicing use of the M2 aiming circle — a non-electronic, mechanical and optical device — to aim their guns.

"They were setting in that weapon system ... they weren't using GPS," he said. "They were doing something that they absolutely have to be able to do in the event that they don't have that signal. And that might not be for a long time, but it might be at a critical point on the battlefield where you have to be, in order to provide your effect — whatever that is — and you can't get to that."

Dickinson told officers at the Fires Conference that the capabilities Space Command provides — GPS, communications, and ISR, for instance — are phenomenal and greatly enhance their ability to operate. But they must be prepared for when, even for a short time, that capability is denied them by the enemy.

Soldiers fire a large gun.
Training Time
Members of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, fire their new M777A2 155mm Howitzers during training exercises at Fort Sill, Okla., Sept. 27, 2018.
Photo By: Army Maj. Geoff Legler
VIRIN: 180927-A-BB392-264

The general said he believes that at training centers, scenarios now involve degraded environments to force participants to fall back on older methods to accomplish their mission.

"I think they are creating those effects at the National Training Center, at combat training centers, so that you get a feel for what that's like and having to go back to like an M2 aiming circle or even a lensatic compass and a map, if you have to," he said. "But I think you, we, have to be prepared that you will be in a degraded or denied environment. And, so, understanding what that means and how you can mitigate that will be even more important."

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