Alongside the US Space Force and German space command, France’s space force conducted its first military drills in outer space to counter threats from space based objects. The head of France’s newly created Space Command, Michel Friedling, said the drills were a “stress test of our systems” and said they “were a first for the French army and even a first in Europe.”
BACKGROUND: France Has A Space Force?
France’s Space Command, Commandement de l’Espace (CdE), was announced in 2019. “Our allies and adversaries are militarising space…we need to act,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly stated in a 2019 press conference announcing the newly minted organization.
France is allocating roughly €4.3 billion ($5 billion USD) over six years, and hopes to have roughly 500 personnel signed up by 2025. While the US and China have spent much more militarizing outer space, France is slated to become the third largest player in the space domain.
The top of their investment list is to develop an anti-satellite laser weapon as well as improve their satellite based surveillance technology.
ANALYSIS: What We Know About The French Space Forces Command Drills
The drill, codenamed “AsterX” (a nod to France’s first satellite launched in 1965), is running 18 simulated crisis events. While there is little information concerning the specific nature of these drills, Friedling told reporters last night that “a series of events appear and create crisis situations or threats against our space infrastructure.” He went on to explain that one of the simulated events was to repel a direct threat to a satellite by a foreign power, as well as the monitoring a dangerous space object.
Russia has already made attempts to spy on French satellite communications, so there is little doubt that much of this is to prepare for similar future events.
The drills began yesterday and will run throughout the week ending on Friday.
OUTLOOK: France’s Space Force Is Part of a Larger Team
As Earth’s orbit continues to fill up with satellites, defending those satellites from bad actors and giant space rocks is a priority. While France’s space force may be small, it is a key player in a much larger contingent of allied nations.
In January, The Debrief reported that the US Space Force’s cadre of elite programmers, Section 31, developed technology that monitors space based threats and shared that system with its Five Eyes allies (Canada, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand). If these new drills are any indication, it seems that Germany and France may have been allowed into the fold.
“Every modern economy and military relies heavily on data transferred through and from space. Keeping these systems safe and operational is crucial for not only a viable national defense but, maybe more importantly, for a viable economy given how much space assets touch all parts,” Dr. Travis Blake, a former Senior Manager at Lockheed Martin who now runs the Physical Sciences division at Kairos Ventures and an expert in Space Domain Awareness, told The Debrief in January.
While tensions have yet to escalate in the space domain, France is assertively positioning itself as a key player in any future situations that may arise.
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