26 July 2019
'May the force be with vous’: France unveils space weapons plan
By Lauren Chadwick
France wants to develop laser weapons to protect its satellites, the country's defence minister said as she outlined a new space strategy.
Florence Parly was fleshing out France's plans for a space defence force, which was announced by President Emmanuel Macron earlier this month.
Macron, speaking on July 13 ahead of Bastille Day celebrations, said he the new command would be formed in September.
"Today, our allies and our adversaries are militarising space," said Parly, speaking at a military base near Lyon.
"The timeline for bouncing back is getting shorter, we need to act. Yes, we will develop powerful lasers. It's a domain in which France has fallen behind."
Parly wants the force to be fully capable by 2030. It will receive a €4.3 billion budget.
"If our satellites are threatened, we plan to blind those of our adversaries. We reserve the right and the means to respond: this may involve the use of powerful lasers deployed from our satellites or from patrolling nano-satellites," Parly said of the new plan.
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that over 2,000 operational satellites are currently orbiting Earth based on the database they maintain on the subject.
Many of those satellites are used for government and commercial communication. Satellites are also extremely important for military missions.
Parly noted in Thursday's speech that the multiplication of debris in space also created risks of potential collisions.Militarising space
Parly specified that space should not become "a new Wild West", but experts say that outer space could become militarised soon.
US President Donald Trump announced plans in February to create an American space force as an extension of the Air Force.
"Space is now a warfighting domain just like the air, land and sea," the White House briefing on the subject noted.
Last September, Parly said that a Russian satellite had come too close to a French-Italian civil-military satellite in what she called "an act of espionage".
When asked by Euronews on Thursday whether or not the French were worried about the Russians, Parly said: "We are not afraid of everyone. We consider because we've seen it that space is becoming a potential place of conflict."
In March, India successfully tested an anti-satellite missile. China used an anti-satellite missile against its own defunct weather satellite in 2007, which generated thousands of pieces of space debris, according to a December 2018 US military report. The US and Russia have also demonstrated this capability.
In 2008, Russia and China introduced a draft text to the UN's Conference on Disarmament to prevent "an arms race in outer space".
But the Conference on
Disarmament and the UN's General
Assembly have been unable to
reach an agreement. A 1967
"outer space treaty" meanwhile
prohibits placing nuclear
weapons or weapons of mass
destruction in outer space.