A day before the 14th of July national celebrations, President of France Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a space command within the French Air Force, which should eventually be established as the Air and Space Force.
Macron delivered a speech to the armed forces at the offices of the Ministry of Armed Forces are located. After reaffirming the willingness to see more European cooperation in the defense sector, he presented France’s new spatial strategy:
The new military space doctrine, which was proposed to me by the minister and which I approved, will ensure our defense of space and from space. We will strengthen our knowledge of the space situation, we will better and actively protect our satellites. And to give substance to this doctrine, to ensure the development and strengthening of our space capabilities, a large space command will be created next September in the Air Force. This will eventually become the Air and Space Force.
The French Air Force already has at its disposal a center of military surveillance of space objects (COSMOS), unique in Europe, in Lyon-Mont Verdun Air Base. As for the new space command, it should build upon the existing Joint Space Command created in 2010 which currently develops and implements the military space policy of the French Ministry of Armed Forces.
The change of space strategy echoes a report published by two members of the French Parliament in January 2019, which warned of emerging threats for France’s space assets. The document pointed to two main issues that the country could face in the near future. On the one hand, military and civil operations increasingly depend on space capabilities, while threats to their integrity also develop in parallel. On the other hand, France’s spatial industry and technological edge are being questioned by the recent development of the private sector – the NewSpace.
The creation of a space command within the Air Force thus seems logical, as France aims to adopt a more “offensive” strategy. And that new doctrine is already at work. The French National Office for Aerospace Studies and Research (ONERA) revealed recently in an interview to Challenges that it was working on an anti-satellite laser weapon able to “damage the solar panels of an enemy satellite, or penetrate through its lense and blind it”.
France follows the steps of the United States. On February 19, 2019, the U.S. President signed the Space Policy Directive 4, which instructed the Pentagon to develop a legislative proposal to establish a United States Space Force as a sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The directive cited the increasing space capabilities of its “potential adversaries”.