Report Details Space Force Success in Foiling Iranian Missile Attack

The Space Force flag / Getty Images
January 8, 2021

The Space Force proved instrumental in thwarting an Iranian missile attack on American bases in Iraq last year, a new report shows.

A review of the events of January 7, 2020, reported by C4ISRNET indicates that the newly created Space Force’s early warning system allowed hundreds of Americans to quickly shelter in bunkers as Iran fired over a dozen ballistic missiles at U.S. military installations.

The missile attacks came days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. A Space Force early warning team at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., picked up unusual readings from advanced satellite missile-detection technology and informed military officials in Iraq within minutes. The early warning potentially saved lives, as U.S. forces reported zero deaths after the night’s action despite personnel suffering 110 injuries.

Officers spoke to the importance of the Space Force’s role in the operation. "This is what they’re trained to do day in and day out," Space Force Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Brandon Davenport told C4ISRNET. "It felt like any other day other than the fact that we all knew there were Americans and allies on the other end of that missile."

Though the branch is newly minted—the Space Force was commissioned less than a month before the attack—its early warning system has seen extensive action thus far. In 2020 alone, the Space Force tracked over 1,000 missiles worldwide. The branch closely monitors U.S. rivals such as China and Russia, whose space capabilities increasingly pose a threat to American security.

Space Force chief of space operations Gen. John Raymond applauded the efforts of his service members to defend against Iranian aggression.

"They operated the world’s best missile warning capabilities," Raymond said. "They did outstanding work, and I’m very, very proud of them."

Competition in outer space continues to heat up. China successfully launched the first lunar surface probe in over 40 years last month and plans to launch a historic number of satellites in 2021. Meanwhile, Iran quietly continues to develop its own space program, stoking concern from Israeli defense analysts.

Though faced with grave security concerns, President-elect Joe Biden may take a different route to navigate competition in space than the Trump administration. Early reports indicate the president-elect may take a more conciliatory and cooperative approach to space issues rather than follow the Trump administration's playbook of relying on American industry for the United States' space ambitions.