On July 13th, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of the French Space Force within the Air Force. It is aimed at improving the country’s military capabilities in the field.
The announcement took place on the even before the Bastille Day national celebrations that feature a military parade down Paris’s Champs-Elysees.
It very closely resembles the announcement by US President Donald Trump of the formation of a US Space Force.
“To assure the development and the reinforcement of our capacities in space, a high command for space will be created in September,” Macron said.
He called the renewed military focus on space a “true national security issue”.
Macron reminded that in 2018 he had spoke of the need for strategic defensive capabilities in space and this announcement was the result.
“The new spatial and military doctrine that has been proposed to me by the (defense) ministry, which I have approved, will allow us to ensure our defense of space…,” added.
“We will reinforce our knowledge of the situation in space, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active manner,” he said.
Defence Minister Florence Parly would reveal details of the funding at a later date.
France has a 2019-2025 military spending plan that allocates 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) to defense in space.
That includes the renewal of the France’s CSO observation and Syracuse communication satellites, the launch of three CERES electromagnetic-monitoring satellites, and the modernization of a spatial radar surveillance system called GRAVES.
Parly announced research into the new generation of military satellites at the Paris Air Show in June.
French operations could no longer do without a presence in space “to contribute to our autonomy of evaluation, decision and action in a decisive manner.”
This increased interest in militarizing space is further reinforced by the failure of the UN talks to prevent a weapons race in space in March.
Russia and China have backed treaty language that seeks to prevent the deployment of certain types of military hardware in space.
The US, even before the election of President Donald Trump, has typically rejected that approach on grounds that it is extremely difficult to verify the military capabilities of hardware deployed in space.
In the US, the Space Force was announced as the 6th branch of the Armed Forces officially in October 2018.
On Russia’s side, in 2019, the official Russian media promised 45 launches of rockets and missiles built by the Russian industry within the Roskosmos State Corporation in 2019. They included 32 orbital launch attempts with spacecraft. However, these numbers did not include test firings of submarine-based missiles. Around five or six military orbital launches were promised from Plesetsk and as many as 19 from Baikonur.
The US Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Yleem Poblete expressed the US concern of recent Russian space activities in an address in Geneva on May 7th. She claimed that the US wanted space to be a free zone, while “other countries” were trying to militarize it.
She repeated Pence’s words:
“Other nations increasingly possess the capability to operate in space, not all of them, however, share our commitment to freedom, to private property, and the rule of law. So as we continue to carry American leadership in space, so also will we carry America’s commitment to freedom in this new frontier.” As the Vice President also said, “Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already. And the United States will not shrink from this challenge. Under President Trump’s leadership, we will meet it head on to defend our nation…. America will always seek peace in space as on Earth. But history has proven that peace only comes through strength. And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead.”
On China’s side, its activities are also increasing. Last month it launched a space rocket from a platform at sea, which is the first time a country did so by itself.
It is also hard at work on different initiatives it claims are aimed at clean up of space debris, among other things. Naturally the US accuses these operations of being potentially threatening and that they could quickly be repurposed to carry out attacks on US space and ground-based infrastructure.
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