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Military satellites will likely be armed with lasers, guns in coming decade

(NationalSentinel) As Trump-era investments in upgrading and modernizing the U.S. military put some of the country’s newest weapon systems light-years ahead of near-peer competitors Russia and China, the latter two countries have focused on the development of so-called “asymmetric” weapons.

Among others, these include electronic warfare, cyberwarfare and anti-satellite weapons designed to blind the U.S. military in space during a conflict.

By Survival Legion

Though nations publicly talk about keeping space demilitarized, Moscow and Beijing — as well as other regional powers — have nonetheless been working on the development of lasers and other capabilities designed to do just that: Militarize space systems.

As such, the United States and its allies are also focusing on developing defensive capabilities for space-based assets like spy and communications satellites to defend them from enemy attacks.

As reported by Forbes, France’s defense minister, Florence Parly, has committed to developing armed defense systems for satellites that could include machine guns and lasers.

Forbes noted:

Last September, the French government accused Russia of an “act of space espionage,” when Moscow’s signals-intelligence satellite Luch-Olymp was steered “a bit too closely” to France’s military communications satellite Athena-Fidus. 

“It got so close,” [she] reportedly said at the time, “that we might have imagined it was trying to intercept our communications—trying to listen to your neighbors is not only unfriendly, it’s an act of espionage.”

Last week, Parly announced details of a new “defense space strategy” at the Lyon-Mont Verdun air defense operations base following the incident.

“Having a reinforced space defense is absolutely essential,” she said, “it is our freedom of appreciation, access, and action in space that is at stake.” France’s Le Point reported that in the summer of 2019, space has finally become “a field of action.”

She described future “sensitive satellites” that could be equipped with an interlocked system of cameras, machine gun, and lasers that can watch for, detect, and then defend against attacks.

“This can be achieved,” Le Point reported, “by submachine guns capable of destroying the solar panels of an enemy satellite, or by lasers blinding or destroying it entirely.”

In addition, Parly said she would like to see the development of warms of low-orbit nanosatellites “placed around the most strategic objects,” and “short-notice replacements for satellites destroyed by the enemy.”

It’s all very ominous, as Forbes notes:

There is an acknowledgment in these latest developments in France (and elsewhere), that the rules of engagement in space are set to change dramatically. And while the French government has been at pains to stress that these moves are entirely defensive in nature, the physical attack on a foreign space asset is currently outlawed. 

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the creation of a “Space Command,” essentially expanding the French Air Force. “The new military space doctrine,” he said, “ensure our defense of space using space weapons.”

France is following in the footsteps of the United States — POTUS Donald Trump announced the formation of a new U.S. Space Force last year — as space threats from Russia, China, and even Iran increase.

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“Although United States space systems have historically maintained a technological advantage over those of our potential adversaries,” the new directive signed by POTUS Trump in February said, “those potential adversaries are now advancing their space capabilities and actively developing ways to deny our use of space in a crisis or conflict.”

While Russia and China are both working on upgrading traditional weapons systems — warships, fighters, and ground combat — they simply cannot match the investment or the research of the United States and its NATO allies in new capabilities. Russia and China can probably build a fifth-generation fighter along the lines of the F-22 and F-35, but not in numbers significant enough to seriously challenge U.S. capabilities. And supercarriers are something that neither Russia nor China seem interested in, nor able to build.

So instead, both countries have focused on asymmetric capabilities including cyber and anti-satellite because they can compete with, and even dominate, the U.S. in those areas.

Nevertheless, the militarization of space is concerning experts and analysts.

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“President Trump has called space a new warfighting domain—we need to take care of space. If concentrating authority in a space force creates an incentive for nations to build space weapons that increase the likelihood of conflict, it would be a profoundly bad idea,” said Dr. Laura Grego, a spokesperson for the Union of Concerned Scientists, in response to the creation of the U.S. Space Force.

“There are much better ways to protect satellites. Space security cannot be achieved unilaterally or solely through military means. It will require coordination and cooperation with other spacefaring nations. That means diplomacy.”

The problem with Grego’s view is that history is replete with examples of diplomacy failing to prevent conflict.

By Jon Dougherty

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