French President Emmanuel Macron has approved the creation of a military space force command to boost the country’s military capabilities amid a precarious state of ties with the US.
Macron made the announcement while addressing a military audience at the French Defense Ministry in Paris on Saturday, stressing that the new command would eventually be part of his country’s air force.
“To give substance to this doctrine and ensure the development and reinforcement of our space capabilities, a space command will be created next September in the air force,” Macron said, adding that the investment involved has yet to be determined.
Macron called the renewed military focus on space a “true national security issue.”
The French president had previously spoken of the need for a strategy for space defense in the face of growing threats from other powers amid a race in space militarization.
“The new spatial and military doctrine that has been proposed to me by the (defense) ministry, which I have approved, will allow us to ensure our defense of space…,” he said on Saturday.
“We will reinforce our knowledge of the situation in space, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active manner.”
France plans to spend four billion dollars on space militarization between 2019 and 2025.
Macron’s announcement, made on the eve of France’s Bastille Day national celebrations that feature a military parade down Paris’s Champs-Elysees, showed the country’s interest in boosting its military readiness in space following increased spending by the US, China and Russia.
The administration of US President Donald Trump drafted a plan last year to establish a new “Space Force” that would serve as the sixth branch of the US military by 2020. The project still requires the approval of Congress.
United Nations-backed talks in Geneva to prevent an arms race in outer space failed to end with a final agreement in March.
Ties between Trump and Macron have turned sour, with tensions over the Washington withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal, as well as France’s new law for a tax on digital giants.
EU military cooperation
Elsewhere in his remarks, Macron described European military cooperation as crucial and underscored the idea of the European Intervention Initiative (E2I) to undertake missions outside of existing structures like NATO.
“Never, since the end of World War II, has Europe been so important,” Macron told the military brass ahead of the Bastille Day parade.
“The construction of a Europe of defense, in connection with the Atlantic alliance whose 70th anniversary we are celebrating, is a priority for France,” he added.
Military forces from all nine countries taking part alongside France in the E2I – including Britain and Germany – will be represented at the Sunday parade.
Some 4,300 members of the armed forces, 196 vehicles, 237 horses, 69 planes and 39 helicopters will be mobilized for the event in the heart of the French capital.
Key European Union leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May, are expected to join Macron to oversee the annual parade that marks the July 14, 1789 storming of the Bastille fortress in Paris in the French Revolution.