By Priyanka S Raj
With the growing list of weapons and military technologies, modern military policies are now moving ahead right at the top of the sky i.e. Space. It must be brought into limelight that most of the powerful nations in context to armed forces strength, be it Russia, US, China or India, are now enhancing their military power in the orbit. Speaking of Space Warfare is not a new subject in the 21st century. Space Warfare is the way of combat, which takes place in the outer space and includes ground-to-space warfare strategy, such as attacking satellites from the Earth; space-to-space warfare, satellites hitting satellites; and space-to-ground warfare like satellites attacking Earth-based targets.
Nevertheless, the space power has been into the picture ever since 1960s. History traces that there were early efforts to conduct space warfare and the active space warfare development goes back to the 1960s when the Soviet Union began the Almaz project, a project designed to give them the ability to do on-orbit inspections of satellites and destroy them if needed. In fact, a parallel planning in the United States took the form of the Blue Gemini project, which consisted of modified Gemini capsules that would be able to deploy weapons and perform surveillance.
And so many countries are into the race of combating more into space rather on terrestrial terrains thus establishing firmly their feet on the earth orbit, capturing the space and dominating their respective zones.
In the year 1985 to 2002, there was a United States Space Command, which in 2002 merged with the United States Strategic Command, leaving the United States Space Force (formerly Air Force Space Command until 2019) as the primary American military space force. The Russian Space Force, established on August 10, 1992, which became an independent section of the Russian military on June 1, 2001, was replaced by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces starting December 1, 2011, but was re-established as a component of the Russian Aerospace Forces on August 1, 2015. In March 2019, India conducted a test of the ASAT missile making it the fourth country with that capability. The very next month in April that year Government of India (GoI) established the Defence Space Agency, or DSA.
As shooting stars have exploded into space, France has now landed in the biggest but most powerful military games. As a sign of growing global competition between powerful nations of the world, France recently conducted its first military exercise in space to test its ability to defend its satellites. The militarisation of space is ramping up with France starting its very first military exercises in space, ensuring to safeguard its satellites in orbit from foreign attack.
According to official report, Major General Michel Friedling, the head of France’s newly created Space Command, called the exercises a “stress test of our systems” and said they “were a first for the French army and even a first in Europe.” Codenamed “AsterX” in a nod to the first French satellite Asterix from 1965, the drills will simulate the monitoring of a potentially dangerous space object, as well as a threat to a satellite.
“A series of events appear and create crisis situations or threats against our space infrastructure, but not only this,” Friedling told reporters from the Space Command headquarters in Toulouse in south-west France.
The new US Space Force and German space agencies were taking part in the French exercises, which began on March 8 and ended on March 12.
Earlier in 2019, Florence Parly, the Defence Minister of France stated that “Our allies and adversaries are militarising space… we need to act”. She had said that France planned to develop anti-satellite laser weapons and new surveillance capabilities to close the gap with rivals China, Russia and the United States.
During the drill, the French military monitored a potentially dangerous space object as well as a threat to its own satellite from another foreign power possessing a considerable space force. Hitherto, France had only participated in this type of military training as a guest, under US command. This time, Paris was running the show, with some help from the newly created US Space Force and Germany’s space agencies.
On the other hand, France notably is gearing up for investments in the space programme are set to reach €4.3 billion (S$6.8 billion) over 2019-2025 budget period – a fraction of the amount spent by the United States or China.
Meanwhile, the military drill comes after a Russian “spy-satellite” had tried to approach a Franco-Italian satellite what Paris called an “act of espionage”. In 2017, Russia’s Olymp-K attempted to intercept transmissions from the Athena-Fidus satellite which is used by both Italian and French armies for secure communications. In 2020, the United States also accused Russia of having “conducted a non-destructive test” of an anti-satellite weapon from space.
According to an official report, “The French space command was announced in 2019, and is prepared to double its staff by 2025, and Toulouse – home to the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the Airbus Space Academy and the Space City museum – is set to bolster its reputation as an international hub of space industry.
In this power playing game, the operational military exercise would certainly ring alarm towards the space war. AsterX 2021 is not only the first French military exercise in space but it also symbolises of becoming Earth’s third largest and strongest super space power. The signals are enough to buzz that French plans are towards enhancing the capacity-building methodologies and making ready their combat fighters in the outer space; beyond the earth.
The French army said, “With the launch of the first space exercise, AsterX 2021 led by the French Air Force and Space Command, this tactical and operational training exercise will prepare space fighters for military space operations.”
Having said that shielding of satellites have become utmost important for every nation and conducting military drill to test their capacity in terms of combating at space frontline. Although there is also the need of viewing the other version of space warfare could lead to certain destruction of the earth if not limited in the upcoming time.
Combating in space has become one of the constructing policies to level the defence power; with the mission of defending the military reconnaissance satellites revolving around the orbit of earth. Simultaneously, the security of Military reconnaissance too had become one of the crucial factors in launching space drills. It is worth noting for past few years, China has been spying over military communicators and hacking the military reconnaissance of different nations and gathering secret intelligence reports which has created lot of chaos to the different countries.
Therefore, military combat exercises in outer space and establishing space station have become a new frontline for most of the developed countries including Russia, France, India, USA and others.
Previously, space was about science and discovery, but with the passage of time the militarisation of space is becoming more and more dominant in the world. Outer space was more used for the operational position of military spacecraft such as for communication and imaging through satellites. However, it has been noted that the US and China are now building their own military space stations, and India has not been left behind either. With French’s combat drill in space, it is pretty much clear that now the modern warfare is not limited to ground but expanding its wings to the sky; and thus, sky is no more the limit.
-The writer is a Meghalaya-based defence journalist. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda