SSC Rapid Reaction Branch receives Air Force Electronic Warfare Award for crisis response support for Commander, U.S. Space Command; named Outstanding Level II Electromagnetic Warfare Unit of the Year

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col, Lisa Baghal, chief of Combatant Command Integration, Warfighter Integration Office, Space Systems Command
Satellite launches and space capability acquisition for joint warfighters might be two of Space Systems Command’s (SSC) more well-known missions. Think deeper and just imagine all the different teams and professional skill sets it takes to for SSC to develop and deliver the systems and architectures required to protect our nation’s place in space against adversarial threats.
One such team is the Rapid Reaction Branch (RRB). Part of SSC’s Space Domain Awareness and Combat Power directorate, the RRB is an acquisition unit unlike any other in the DoD. Its mission is to field quick reaction capabilities in response to Combatant Commanders’ urgent operational needs for the U.S. Air and Space Forces. The Branch drastically reduces capability development and fielding timelines ranging from multiple years down to months or even weeks.

In addition to developing exquisite operationally relevant capabilities, the organic high-caliber multi-functional Branch builds secure operating facilities from the ground up in the most austere of locations. Their use of streamlined acquisition authorities and a flexible funding construct enables success in providing concepts of operations; tactics, techniques and procedures development; operator training and certification; and ensuring system sustainment for the DoD’s most urgent missions. 

SSC’s RBB was recently recognized for its efforts in advising the Commander, U.S. Space Command (CDRUSSPACECOM) on six crisis response options in support of Operation ZODIAC ENDEAVOR, The Branch unit executed two overseas missions to develop, test, train and deploy a $5 million space electromagnetic warfare quick reaction capability in less than 60 days from requirement.  

Amidst ongoing contingency ops, the RBB quickly responded to changes in the operational environment, delivering critical software updates and in-field reprogramming actions that increased mission utility by 92%. To ensure usability and effectiveness, they integrated a 10-member space operator quick reaction force from Space Delta 3 to provide system, checklist and training feedback 70% early to plan. As part of this effort, then trained 35 additional crew members on more than 100 hours of advanced academic and hands-on material with real-time analytics to ensure the members’ readiness for this four-star “No Fail” mission. Additionally, the RBB drove a paradigm shift in the space electromagnetic warfare targeting process, which enabled the synchronization of non-kinetic fires across five joint platforms.

SSC’s RBB was awarded the Air Force Electronic Warfare’s Outstanding Level II Electromagnetic Warfare (EW) Unit of the Year. Selected from 47 nominees across the Department of the Air Force, the RRB was the only acquisition unit to be awarded across the 15 awards program categories and was one of only two U.S. Space Force winners. 
Capt. Malia Stephens, SSC chief of operations and sustainment and one of the RBB project leads who fielded capability last year, said, “Delivering a mission overseas was one of the most rewarding experiences because we led every step of the process from development, test, hardware set-up and checkout, to operator training and operational acceptance. Our success was further enabled by our in-house team of government representatives and contractors, all of whom are passionate and motivated to deliver unique capabilities and stretch towards the next hard challenge.”

The RRB closely partners with Combatant Command planners and operational users to ensure research and development efforts are aligned with emerging threats. They capitalize on this close relationship to anticipate operational needs and optimize effectiveness of their innovative solutions, ranging from standalone analysis tools to major weapon system modifications and one-of-a-kind quick reaction capabilities. Last year, they researched more than 30 adversary technologies, prioritizing capability requirements across a $20 million internal research and development budget in collaboration with military service and interagency partners to close Operations Plan gaps for eight Combatant Commands. According to Capt. Tyler Murray, RBB chief of development, “All of this is made possible by a mission focused and badge-less workforce whose number one priority is to get capability to field at the speed of need.”
It doesn’t stop there. The RRB also has an in-house lead development test organization (LDTO) with decades of electromagnetic warfare test experience to ensure quick response capabilities are adequately and accurately verified on the rapid timelines required of each unique mission. Systems are placed into operations immediately upon delivery, which means it is vital that the tests are as relevant and realistic as possible. This requirement can take RBB’s test team to wherever a system is being developed and operated. 
Within one month of his arrival to the RRB last year, SSC chief of test, Maj. John Sebes, shared how he was supporting testing outside the contiguous United States. Sebes said, “Our team takes great pride in the unique mission of the RRB and the capabilities we deliver. This shows through the rigor used to evaluate our systems, ensuring we deliver a useful capability to the operational teams.”
In addition to supporting the RRB’s quick reaction mission, the RBB’s LDTO serves on integrated test teams for programs of record across the Space Electromagnetic Warfare enterprise. Their efforts contribute to the success for Space Systems Command and Space Rapid Capabilities Office programs valued more than $1.5B. 
In the past five years, the RRB has successfully responded to seven urgent operations needs with nine quick response capabilities supporting five Combatant Commanders. SSC’s RRB is also the only Air Force unit to have successfully fulfilled an urgent operation need within the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-mandated two years, according to a recent Air Force Audit Agency review.

The Air Force Electronic Warfare Annual Awards Program (AFEWAAP) recognizes individuals and units’ efforts that further electronic warfare operations that contribute to advances in the Air and Space Force and throughout the Department of Defense. Categories for the 2022 AFEWAAP include identification/solution of significant EW problems, threats and vulnerabilities, creation/development of innovative training, education and awareness, and mission accomplishment/success resulting from the application of EW.