The U.S. Space Force (USSF) has activated its newest service component for Europe and Africa, in a ceremony held at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on December 8, 2023. The component, known as U.S. Space Forces Europe and Africa (USSPACEFOR-EURAF), will provide dedicated space capabilities and support to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).
The USSPACEFOR-EURAF is the latest addition to the USSF’s growing global reach, following the establishment of similar components under other combatant commands, such as U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Forces Korea, and U.S. Central Command. The USSF, which was created as an independent service in December 2019, aims to protect and defend U.S. and allied interests in the increasingly contested and congested space domain.
The USSPACEFOR-EURAF will be led by U.S. Space Force Col. Max Lantz, who previously headed the U.S. military space capabilities in Europe and Africa under the air component, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA). The new component will consist of around 30 service members, who will work to enhance EUCOM’s and AFRICOM’s access to space-related capabilities, such as satellite navigation, communications, and integration with NATO Allies and partners.
The activation of Space Forces Europe and Africa is a “critical step” in USSF’s growth as its own service with its own voice in operations, Saltzman said.
“Space has become more and more central to joint operations,” he added. “We are better connected, more informed, more precise, and more lethal thanks to space.”
The activation of the USSPACEFOR-EURAF was welcomed by the leaders of EUCOM and AFRICOM, as well as by the German Defense Minister, who hosted the ceremony. They all highlighted the strategic importance of the space domain in military affairs, and the need to strengthen the bilateral and multilateral partnerships in space.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius highlighted the strategic significance of this development, emphasizing the U.S. as Germany’s key partner in expanding space capabilities. He emphasized the activation of the U.S. Space Forces Europe and Africa component as a symbol of the escalating importance of the space domain in military affairs, highlighting Germany’s role as a dependable ally and host for the U.S. Armed Forces. Pistorius expressed confidence in the unit’s ability to strengthen the robust bilateral military partnership in space.
Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, who presided over the ceremony, said that the activation of the USSPACEFOR-EURAF was an important day in the history of the Space Force, as it demonstrated its maturity and its commitment to take on the challenges of the space domain.
“Space has become more and more central to joint operations,” Saltzman said. “We are better connected, more informed, more precise, and more lethal thanks to space.”
AFRICOM’s commander, U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, reinforced that the activation of USSPACEFOR-EURAF showcases a commitment to enhancing collaborative space capabilities across Africa. He stressed the initiative’s broader focus beyond safeguarding space assets, emphasising the importance of building partnerships and enhancing the command’s capacity to provide space-related advantages in joint missions with African partners.
EUCOM’s deputy commander, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Steven Basham, echoed the sentiment, stating that the activation of USSPACEFOR-EURAF reaffirms their dedication to strengthening joint space capabilities in the region. Their primary objective is safeguarding space assets while empowering the command to generate space effects to support missions alongside Allies and partners.
SPACEFOREUR-AF is now the fourth service component embedded in one of the U.S. military’s regional commands, joining U.S. Central Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and U.S. Forces Korea. Joint combatant commanders and Space Force leaders say the new organizations help better articulate what space capabilities are available and ensure they are taken into account and put to use.
“The joint force’s missions increasingly rely on space and the Space Force is committed to ensuring that the force has the space resources it needs to succeed,” Saltzman said. “That is particularly important here in the European and African theaters of operation. The Space Force is already very actively involved in supporting efforts in the region, with our support to Ukraine being most visible.”
The USSF is considering establishing components in other commands, possibly including U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Special Operations Command, and U.S. Forces Japan.
“Space operations is our daily lives, our operations, our activities, and our investments,” Marine Corps Gen. Michael E. Langley, the head of U.S. Africa Command, said during the ceremony. “All the space-based assets [are] ensuring the joint force has the right information at the right time to fight and to win. SPACEFOREUR-AF will work with all other components to ensure that space planning and support is embedding in all of our operations.”
Like the rest of the Space Force, SPACEFOREUR-AF is a small organization. But throughout 2023, after the plans for SPACEFOREUR-AF were announced, senior U.S. military space leaders visited Europe to strengthen the U.S. military space alliances. On Dec. 1, the U.K. agreed to host a new advanced space tracking radar system along with Australia and the U.S.
The activation will “finally normalize how space forces are presented to the theaters—sound, structural changes,” Lantz said. “The component we’re standing up today will never be as small, under-ranked, or less resourced than at this very moment. Starting tomorrow, we will gain in strength, understanding, and resources in order to add value to EUCOM and AFRICOM. Every day we will get better.”