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Monday, April 15, 2024

American Space Force starts a Korean unit

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A ceremony launching a South Korea-based United States Space Force unit takes place at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
A ceremony launching a South Korea-based United States Space Force unit takes place at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The U.S. military launched a space force unit in South Korea, the United States Forces Korea (USFK) announced Wednesday.

The establishment of a United States Space Forces (USSF) unit under the USFK command came after South Korea and the United States pledged to increase their security coordination against North Korean nuclear and missile threats.

USFK Commander Gen. Paul LaCamera attended a ceremony for the start of the unit at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi. The new USSF unit will be led by Lt. Col. Joshua McCullion.

A USSF detachment has been deployed to South Korea since last year, but Wednesday was the launch of a unit under the USFK command.

The USSF Korea unit is expected to help monitor projectiles from North Korea and elsewhere to bolster the deterrence capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

A service member of the South Korea-based United States Space Force (USSF) unit attaches the branch's badge to his right shoulder during the unit's launch ceremony at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
A service member of the South Korea-based United States Space Force (USSF) unit attaches the branch’s badge to his right shoulder during the unit’s launch ceremony at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi on Wednesday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]

The Korea unit is the second U.S. space command headquarters established outside the mainland United States by the U.S. Department of Defense, after one created under the Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii earlier this month.

The creation of the South Korea-based USSF unit reflects efforts by the U.S. military to enhance its operational capabilities to cover threats in all potential theaters of war, including air, land, sea, cyberspace and outer space.

The USSF unit in Korea is the latest branch of the U.S. armed forces to join the USFK, which already includes the Eighth Army, the Seventh Air Force, the Naval Forces Korea, the Marine Forces Korea and the Special Operations Command Korea.

USSF is a relatively young service branch of the U.S. armed forces. It was launched in December 2019 and is the world’s only independent space force.

Earlier this month, South Korea’s Air Force established a Space Operations Squadron at Osan Air Base, signaling stronger space security cooperation with the U.S. military.

Maj. Kim Jong-ha, the squadron’s first commander, said in a media interview earlier this month that the South Korean space unit will likely conduct operations in cooperation with the USSF unit.

“The squadron plans to develop practical space operation capabilities, such as enhancing or identifying space threats, based on cooperation with the U.S. Space Force,” Kim said.

Seoul’s state arms procurement agency said Friday it plans to complete an 18.05 billion-won ($13.7 million) project to develop and deploy a space environment forecasting and warning system by 2024.

The system is designed to alert the military of changes in the space environment, such as a solar flare, which could disrupt the operation of surveillance and communications satellites, guided weapons and other high-tech assets, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]