Ramstein Air Base to house new NATO space center

The headquarters building of NATO's Allied Air Command at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. NATO is expected to approve plans this week for a new space center at Ramstein, which will serve as a hub against threats to military satellites.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 19, 2020

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S.-led NATO alliance is expected to approve plans this week for a new space center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which will serve as a hub against threats to allied military satellites, a NATO official said Monday.

“This will be a focal point for ensuring space support to NATO operations, sharing information and coordinating our activities,” the NATO official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other military chiefs will review the plan Thursday, when NATO’s 30 member states begin a virtual two-day meeting.

The space center will be connected to NATO’s Air Force Command at Ramstein, the NATO official said. The NATO air force headquarters falls under the command of Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, who also leads U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa.

The space center will serve as a coordination hub for space surveillance and information-sharing among allies. It wasn’t clear Monday whether its establishment would result in additional personnel being stationed at Ramstein.

The move comes nearly one year after the U.S. military established the Space Force as a separate military branch. Space operations have taken on greater importance for the U.S., which is concerned about the ability of Russia and China to jam GPS communication satellites or use ground-based missiles that can destroy satellites.

NATO formally adopted space as a new operational domain in 2019 alongside air, land, sea and cyberspace, citing the central role satellites play in military operations across the alliance.

Space underpins NATO’s ability to navigate and track forces, communicate securely, detect missile launches and ensure effective command and control, the alliance has said.

About half of the more than 2,000 satellites that are in orbit are owned by NATO member countries.

NATO’s top official has emphasized that the alliance “has no intention to put weapons in space,” where its focus will be defensive in nature.

“But we need to ensure our missions and operations have the right support,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in November.

Separately, allies are also considering the possibility of a new center of excellence to help NATO develop its space strategy, but that topic isn’t expected to be on the agenda this week when allies meet.

Twitter: @john_vandiver