By Zhao Zhenyu
At present, space is becoming a new focus of strategic wrestling and a new “battlefield” of arms race for major countries in the world. Since US President Donald Trump announced the establishment of a Space Force, the weaponization and militarization of space has become a hotly discussed topic, and some other countries have followed suit.
Recently, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would establish a military space force command in September, turning the country’s Air Force into an “Aerospace Force.” The media predicted that more NATO members would put forward similar strategies as the intergovernmental military alliance planned to recognize space as an independent domain of warfare later this year.
Some major countries have consecutively unveiled their own military operations or strategies related to space. Jamie Shea, an analyst with the think tank Friends of Europe and a former NATO official, said, “Whoever controls space also controls what happens on land, on the sea and in the air… Unable to control space, it is difficult to control the other domains of war.” The new round of space arms race provoked by the Trump administration has opened more and more “Pandora's boxes.” Many great powers are joining in the space arms race, stirring up widespread concern around the world.
Obviously, the US is the most active country in establishing a Space Force. Since President Trump took office, the US government has followed a strategy of competition with major countries and repeatedly advocated “preparing for space wars,” increasingly accelerating the pace in the militarization of space. In 2017, the US military launched the Space Flag-2017 joint exercise, pushing space warfare from the strategic level to the tactic level. In 2018, the US issued the Doctrine for Space Operations to provide detailed guidance for commanding, controlling, planning, executing and assessing joint space operations of the US military, organized the Schriever Wargame 2018 to explore new theories about space warfare, and established the Space Force Command as the US military’s 11th unified combatant command, with an aim to forge an independent Space Force.
As one of the world’s earliest countries engaged in space launches, France has laid a certain foundation in space technologies, although it isn’t a first-class space power in the world. Given its inadequate capacity in building a Space Force on its own, France will opt to leverage the third party to promote the building of its military space force in the future.
Moreover, as a major founding country of the European Space Agency (ESA) and a key member of the EU and the NATO, France will be able to coordinate and leverage European forces and use the conflict between the US and Russia to seek benefits from both sides. In fact, while maintain close cooperation with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), ESA has established cooperation relationship with the Russian Federal Space Agency, and the two sides are working together to develop a new-generation of Soyuz carrier rocket.
On March 27, 2019, India declared the success of Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite test, making India the fourth country with the anti-satellite capacity after nations like the US and Russia. Then, India established the Defence Space Agency (DSA) in April, and created the Defense Space Research Organization (DSRO) in June to develop space warfare systems and technologies, such as directed energy weapons, laser weapons and co-orbital weapons.
Japan has also taken active action to strength its space capacity. Its new National Defense Program Guidelines called for enhancing the country’s capacity for space warfare including space monitoring. In recent years, Japan has launched several reconnaissance satellites and military communication satellites. It has also planned to form a space monitoring network. All of these indicate that its military space policy has come from backstage to forestage.
Space is the common wealth of humanity. Today, with the rapid development of science and technology, the connection between space and human society has become increasingly close. However, countries like the US are extending their military reach to space, publicly intensifying space arms race and the militarization of space. This tendency deserves great attention from all countries and the United Nations. Otherwise, space will turn into a real battlefield one day.