US Space Force Confirms Satellites Tracked Iranian Missiles During January Strike

General credits 'space professionals' for early warning

In comments on September 15, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond confirmed for the first time within Space Force that the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) were used in January to detect incoming Iranian missiles against US forces in Iraq. Raymond credited the early warning for saving lives.

The incident in question took place on January 8. After the US assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran retaliated against US forces at the Ayn al-Asad base in Iraq. No US soldiers were killed, though a number were treated for concussion-like symptoms.

Though this is the first comment on the matter from Space Force itself, the report of SBIRS’s use had been reported by President Trump back in January, when he attributed it for detecting the missiles and preventing all casualties.

The SBIRS satellites have been launched over the last 15 years, and Space Force is planning to spend another $2.5 billion on them in FY 2021. This is no doubt why they want to emphasize their utility, as most Space Force assets are highly speculative and don’t translate easily into on-the-ground uses.

Talk of SBIRS saving lives was likely overstated, however. It was well-established that Iran provided some eight hours of advanced notice, as while they felt retaliation was necessary they did not want any US deaths escalating the conflict further.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.