A real life Independence Day may not be far away. Only this time there is no defined threat the military is working against, although it is about "extraterrestrial combat".
Space Aggressors is what the US military is calling them, a team of soldiers training at a warehouse near Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Their job is to act like the enemy during mock space battles to help US units prepare for a conflict that may one day extend to outer space.
"We play the bad guys," Captain Christopher Barnes, chief of training for the 26th Space Aggressor Squadron told the Seeker. "We study threats to the space realm, either coming from space or based on land. If we can't directly replicate them with hardware, then we figure out if there's a software solution or some way we can train people to the point where they can fight through them, if they have to, in a conflict," he says.
The elite military unit is being prepared to take on what US calls 'very real' threats from space powers like Russia and China. US intelligence chief Dan Coats recently told a Senate hearing that Russia and China are aggressively pursuing space warfare by building anti-satellite weapons, some of which in future could not only destroy US satellites but may even posses the capability to hit targets on land.
Vice Admiral Charles Richard, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, had told a Washington conference in March that "China is developing an arsenal of lasers, electro-magnetic rail guns, and high-powered microwave weapons to neutralize America's intelligence, communications, and navigation satellites."
Captain Barnes said some people think space is the Achilles heel for the US because of its heavy reliance on space assets for most everything, from launching missiles to directing warships across the seas. For instance, any damage to the Global Positioning System -- a group of 31 satellites owned by the US government and operated by their US Air Force -- could make the US military to fall back to outmoded tactics, greatly eroding its technological edge over an enemy.
The army however, stresses that it is not space war yet but like any other unit of the military that has to be ready for any existential threats, a space threat is very real in today's scenario.
"While we're not at war in space, I don't think we could say we're exactly at peace, either," says Vice Admiral Richard. "We must prepare for a conflict that extends into space."