As the old saying goes, you can’t hit what you don’t see.

US Strategic Commander General John Hyten made his priorities clear at the Space & Missile Defense Symposium last week: sensors first, shooters second, and capacity third.

“The most important thing to do in the missile defense business is to make sure you can see and characterize a threat,” he said. “If you can’t see and characterize a threat, I don’t care what kind of shooter you have, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

But that doesn’t mean the rest are unimportant.

“We need all three, don’t get me wrong. But if you don’t have the sensors, then the other two really don’t matter,” he said.

Hyten also emphasized that the earlier that detection happens, the better.

“If you can see it early, you can kill it early … That means boost phase intercept. That means prior to launch becomes a possibility … the more you can do that, the more cost imposing it is on an adversary,” he said. “If you shoot down a missile and it comes down on their head, do you think they’re going to shoot another one?” 

Hyten also went on to argue that STRATCOM needs more space assets on the heels of The White House’s push for Congress to invest an additional $8 billion in national security space systems over the next five years.

“If you think about a global threat, there’s not enough islands in the world to build radars on to see all the threats,” he said. “The only place to go to do that is … into space. We have to move to move into space.”