The recently formed US Space Force has deployed troops to the Arabian Peninsula as its first foreign mission. Earlier this month a squadron of 20 "core space operators" were stationed at the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Enlisted and commissioned officers assigned to the 16th Expeditionary Space Control Flight and the 609th Air Operations Centre joined the US Space Force during ceremonies at the base. Several more squadrons are expected to arrive at the base and US Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said the Space Force would comprise about 16,000 air force and civilian personnel.
The bases' Director, Colonel Todd Benson, told the Associated Press that the US needed to prepare for conflict in space. "We're starting to see other nations that are extremely aggressive in preparing to extend conflict into space… We have to be able to compete and defend and protect all of our national interests."
The mission is thought to focus on new threats in the region, notably Iran's missile programme, in addition to attempts to jam, hack and blind satellites. Following the successful launch of Iran's first satellite to space, the US has expressed concerns, describing it as a secret military space programme, although Iran has denied these accusations.
READ: Iran's Revolutionary Guard will strike US bases if war erupts
According to Sky News, the decision by the US to deploy to the Arabian Peninsula first could be seen as a nod to the country's first "space" war; the First Gulf War of 1990-91, which is said to be the first conflict in which the US military used GPS coordinates to tell troops where they were in the desert as they pushed Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait's territory.
The Space Force is the sixth branch of the US military created by President Donald Trump and the first military branch since the establishment of the Air Force in 1947. The force however has been labelled as a vanity project and has been mocked over its use of woodland camouflage and their insignia which bears a close resemblance to the Star Trek logo. The force was also mocked in a satirical Netflix series called "Space Force".
READ: Iran plans to launch a 2nd military satellite amid US condemnation