Read More: Popular Mechanics
If you ask the Pentagon, the first space war was more than 25 years ago. "People reference Desert Storm as the first space war," General John W. "Jay" Raymond, commander of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), said during a recent visit to the Popular Mechanics offices in New York. "It really was the first time that we took strategic space information and integrated it into a theater of operations." The "left hook" of Operation Desert Storm, when U.S. and allied ground forces attacked the western flank of the Iraqi military in Kuwait, revealed the true power of satellites in wartime. "Going through a desert, at night, without roads and maps—it was all enabled by GPS," Raymond says. A map of troop movement during the Gulf War, coordinated with the still nascent GPS network operated by Air Force Space Command. Fast-forward a quarter-century and tensions are again on the rise, from Syria to the Korean Peninsula. And today, the United States no longer enjoys the type of control it had over space in 1991. A hypothetical attack on U.S. satellites has been a serious public concern since at least January 2007, when a Chinese missile shot a Chinese satellite out of the sky. Russia has been researching anti-satellite weapons since at least the 1980s. The past few decades have shown how space operations can revolutionize military operations on Earth. The next theater, however, might be space itself.