The latest developments of the French Space Military Command

By Jean-Claude Vecchiatto

01-2021

The defense sector has always been at the forefront of technological developments: national Air Forces were created in most countries at the beginning of the 20th Century, soon after the first flight of an heavier-than-air machine by the Wright Brothers, and just before WWI.

Several nations (including the United States, which created the United States Space Force in 2019, the UK (see below) and Italy) now consider that space should become a separate military command.

On 11 September 2020, the French Air Force has become the French “Air and Space Force”. This name change has been accompanied by a modification of the logo of the Air Force and by the implementation of a new organisation of the Ministry of Defense (MoD).

The creation of a Space Military Command has been initiated to react to several hostile actions in space recorded in the recent years, from the destruction of a satellite with a ballistic missile to the unfriendly approach of a French satellite by a space object of another country.

Space will not become the next battlefield

France, as most of the nations of the world, has ratified the Outer Space Treaty which provides that it shall carry on activities in the exploration and use of outer space in the interest of maintaining international peace and that the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.

However, taking into account the central role of space in all human and economic activities, whether civil or military (data, GPS, telecommunications, earth observation, etc.) and the new perspectives that New Space is offering, France has decided to recognise space as a domain of its own right with the same status as the other domains (land, sea, air), with a single chain of command and strategic autonomy.

The new Space Military command aims to respond to new threats that could compromise the national freedom of access and action in space: cyber threats, electromagnetic jamming, kinetic (anti-satellites missiles) or more conventional threats.

Organisation of the Space Military Command

The new Space Military Command is an organisation of the Air and Space Force but receives its directives from the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. It will be organised around four pillars, in close coordination with the CNES, the French space agency:

  • Space service support;
  • Space situational awareness;
  • Operations support; and
  • Active space defense.

The MoD is planning to assign 500 military and civil personnel to the Space Military Command. Its roadmap will include a fist space military drill, the creation of Space Lab, an incubator to foster innovation and the strengthening of international cooperation.

Together with the United States, which created the United States Space Force in 2019, France and other European countries including the UK (see below) and Italy (which is also working on the establishment of a similar organisation) are paving the way for the creation of Space Military Commands.