Why it matters: Apparently reaching for the stars isn’t enough for France, who now appears to be joining the US in wanting the capacity to shoot them with their own “space command.” Beginning this year, the new space command will form part of the Air Force, which will later be renamed to the “Space and Air Force.”
Since 2010, France has operated a Joint Space Command (Commandement Interarmées de l'Espace) as a cooperative effort among the various branches of the military. It’s tasked with guiding space-focused policies, coordinating space-based military assets and dealing with international cooperative efforts. However, it only has observational, intelligence, and communication satellites, meaning it cannot conduct space-to-ground or space-to-space warfare. It appears that might be the role of the new space command.
According to Reuters, French President Emmanuel Macron broke the news to military personnel at an informal meeting at the Defense Minister Florence Parly’s residence ahead of Bastille Day. “To give substance to this doctrine and ensure the development and reinforcement of our space capabilities, a space command will be created next September in the Air Force,” he said. His statements echo that of Parly’s, but also of President Trump’s.
In June 2018, President Trump directed the Pentagon to develop a sixth, independent branch of the military: the Space Force, headed by the American Space Command. In May, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed a policy bill authorizing the creation of the Space Force by 2020, which will be paid for under the Pentagon’s 2020 $750 billion budget.
Air Force Col. Eric Felt, director of the Space Vehicles Directorate at the Space Control Laboratory, said that the Space Force will have the capacity to perform offensive strikes in space to protect the US from “adversaries” and “threats from the space environment itself.”
President Macron has confirmed that a budget for the new space command is yet to be determined, though it is likely to be significant as France has already allocated a €3.6 billion ($4 billion) budget for non-militant space operations up to 2025. The French military has also spent €795 million on two new military reconnaissance satellites, the first of which entered orbit last December.