French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the creation of a new space command within the Air Force, to help the nation better protect its satellites and other space assets, according to BBC News.
The new command will officially be created in September. Macron announced the move on Saturday, speaking to military personnel, saying:
“We will strengthen our knowledge of the space situation, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active way. And to give substance to this doctrine, to ensure the development and reinforcement of our space capabilities, a large space command will be created next September within the Air Force, which will eventually become the Air and Space Force.”
The president said the expected investment in the space command had yet to be determined.
The move comes as other nations take a more forceful posture when it comes to space defense. US President Donald Trump announced plans last year to create a new Space Force branch of the military, citing concerns over the prospect of China or Russia achieving dominance in space. The US Space Force would be its own separate, independent military branch.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency has warned that both Russia and China are developing new space-based weapons and cyber warfare capabilities, including satellite jamming, directed-energy weapons, and ground-based missiles that can target satellites in orbit.
Reuters learned last month that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) plans to officially recognize space as a new domain of warfare this year, signaling a fresh strategy to address threats.
An increased reliance on space assets has led to new concerns over the way cyberattacks could cripple a nation’s defense capabilities. Cyberattacks on satellites “have the potential to wreak havoc on strategic weapons systems and undermine deterrence by creating uncertainty and confusion,” according to a report this month from Chatham House.
Last year, French defense minister Florence Parly emphasized a need to prioritize French space autonomy in the midst of an international race to militarize space.
France, home of the world’s third-oldest space agency, has been moving towards a renewed focus on space, with plans to spend 3.6 billion euros by 2025. A new military reconnaissance satellite was launched in December 2018, with more expected over the next several years.
France plays a central role in the operations of the European Space Agency, thanks in part to its launch site at Kourou in French Guiana.
Photo by Nicolas Halftermeyer [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]