France's new space command considers using lasers to protect satellites
France has announced it will expand its military space assets and defend them using systems that may include anti-satellite lasers. In a speech before the Commandement de Défense Aérienne et des Opérations Aériennes (Command of air defense and air operations, CDAOA) at Air Base 942 Lyon Mont-Verdun, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly said that the government will spend an additional €700 million (US$780 million) by 2025 to produce new surveillance satellites with self-defense capabilities.
Today's announcement comes after President Emmanuel Macron's pre-Bastille Day speech in which he said that France will set up a new unified space command under the French Air Force as the Armed Forces of Air and Space. It's similar to the one established in Britain under the RAF and advocated by the US Trump administration to coordinate and control military space assets, like surveillance and communication satellites. Under the French Military Programming Act 2019-2025, the new command has already been awarded €3.6 billion (US$4 billion).
According to Parly, France's new command will conduct all French space operations and will be under the authority of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. It will have an initial team of 220 people and will be given increased responsibilities in the run up to 2025 as military space operations are consolidated.
"I decided that the Ministry of the Armed Forces would assume the role of space operator," says Parly. "If we want to be able to carry out real military space operations, we need to develop an autonomy of action."
In addition, the government is launching a new Master of Space satellite program to develop new surveillance satellites and active defense systems to protect them, which could include lasers designed to blind or dazzle the sensors of anti-satellite systems.
"Tomorrow, we will use more sophisticated means and services," says Parly. "To better protect our satellites, actions will be taken, such as the integration of surveillance cameras to the Syracuse communications satellites for their self-protection or the acquisition of nano-satellite patrol boats from 2023.
"If our satellites are threatened, we will consider dazzling those of our opponents. We reserve the time and the means for the response: it may involve the use of power lasers deployed from our satellites or our nano-satellites patrollers."
Source: Ministère des Armées