SSC hosts inaugural ‘Fight Tonight’ competition to prepare warfighters for tomorrow’s battle

  • Published
  • By Mr. Arsenio R. Cortez Jr.
Space Systems Command recently held its first ‘Fight Tonight’ competition at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, to explore Guardians’ innate warrior mindset to advance the U.S. Space Force’s posture against space threats.

“The 2026 threat is real,” stated Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, SSC, commander. “The Fight Tonight competition is a great example of where SSC is changing our culture of building everything to ‘exploiting what we have and buying what we can’ to get after the fight. We expected the workforce would submit some exciting and innovative ideas, but we were blown away by the 80 plus proposals and their potentials.”

Across the command Guetlein emphasizes the need to change the way SSC does business -- from how a requisition is received, to how it is acquired, to how it is delivered…all in order to deliver more resilient space capabilities to warfighters by 2026.

Under this construct Guardians are defining a resilient space architecture that outlines less vulnerability to adversarial threats, boosting protections against cyberattacks and generating system of systems that are integrated and positioned on multiple orbits.

In this open competition, presenters were pushed to explore ideas that would build on current space capabilities, showcase innovation through concepts, and integrate promising solutions.

Each input, while paying close attention to the advancements of space technology, fundamentally played an essential role in nurturing a force that is fully entuned with cultivating an operational mentality.

As a procurement and pivotal organization within the USSF, Capt. Darrell Dancy, Fight Tonight’s lead action officer and an acquisitions program manager, explains that SSC’s stake in this effort is immediate.

“Undertaking the acquisition of needed technology that meets technical and operational requirements that allow warfighters to maintain advantage in the battlefield, drives us toward a resilient architecture,” said Dancy. “As we evolve in our thinking and efficiency, our organizational and cultural changes, build the necessary construct to effectively procure what we need from industry partners and generate efficient processes to maximize what we currently have.”

This cultural change aligns with the USSF’s implementation of the Guardian Ideal – a roadmap published, Sept. 2021, with an intent to equip Guardians with the understanding of military operations and mastery of joint warfighting to develop a modern warfighter mindset.

The competition’s concept is a manifestation of the pivot taken by USSF and U.S. Air Force leadership to rapidly field a more resilient space architecture to counter a fast-growing threat in space from adversaries like China and Russia.

Early this year, China’s Shijian-21 satellite demonstrated capabilities with its robotic arm by pulling a dead satellite out of its normal orbit. The robotic arm technology constitutes potential military applications, which, if ignored, poses threats to assets within the space domain.

The rapid advancement of adversarial technology and capabilities play a role in how SSC is pushing its members to think about how it sees the evolution of space.
“SSC has always been an amazing partner, but I have been impressed with [the command’s] commitment to marrying the capabilities our Nation can bring to bear on the 2026 fight,” said Maj. Gen. Deanna Burt, USSF, special assistant to the vice chief of space operations.

Fight Tonight demonstrates that cultural change and recognizes how to leverage the command’s strategic advantage against any advisory and bond with allies through capabilities of its most valued asset – its people and partnerships. 

“The innovation coming out of SSC is unprecedented and transformational,” Burt said. “The energy and passion of the presenters is exciting, and it gives me confidence we will deter and defeat the threat if necessary.”

Despite receiving more than 80 proposals, 21 teams were selected to present their solutions in a “fight tonight” environment to a panel of judges led by Guetlein and Burt.

The teams presented ideas ranging from improvements on multi-contact Phased Array Fed Reflectors, GPS Constellation Expansion, to Wide Field of View Operationalization, and Fight Tonight Wargaming. Each idea was evaluated based on innovativeness, impact to the 2026 fight, feasibility, and impact to warfighters.

“I was amazed by the integration of proposals between operations and acquisitions, and the number of proposals by our FFRDC team members,” Guetlein said referring to the command’s collaborative effort exhibited by incorporating its Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, a public-private partnership operated by contractors, universities, and industrial firms. 
Winner(s) will be announced at the 2nd Annual Space Force Ball on Nov. 18, in Los Angeles, California, and will receive $6-8 million funding to implement their solutions.