France steps up space spending to gird for ‘unfriendly’ moves

Published July 24, 2020, 5:47 PM

by Agence France-Presse

France will increase spending on its new Space Force programme by several hundreds of millions of euros as it prepares for potential “unfriendly manoeuvres” among world powers,  Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly leaves the Elysee presidential palace after attending the weekly cabinet meeting on July 22, 2020 in Paris. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)
French Defence Minister Florence Parly leaves the Elysee presidential palace after attending the weekly cabinet meeting on July 22, 2020 in Paris. (Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP)

“We’re gone from a concept of space as a ‘common good’ in the service of science, to a space where countries are struggling for global supremacy,”  Parly told the Provence newspaper of Marseille.

The new Air and Space Force, which Parly will officialise during a visit to France’s military flight training school at Salon-en-Provence, will have a staff of 500 by 2025, she said.

Investments in the programme will reach 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) over the 2019-2025 budget period, up from the 3.6 billion euros originally planned.

“In no way are we engaging in an arms race,” Parly said, reiterating a stance announced when President Emmanuel Macron unveiled the new space initiative last year.

“But it’s my responsibility to make sure we have thoroughly identified the threats our country could face.”

She pointed to a 2017 incident in which Paris accused Russia’s Luch Olymp satellite of trying to spy on the Franco-Italian Athena-Fidus satellite, used to provide secure military communications.

“The fact is that satellites can now get close to ours and scramble their signals or damage and even destroy them,” she said.

“Soon we will have small patrol satellites that will allow us to detect and identify those responsible for any unfriendly manoeuvres,” she said.

 
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