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

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

“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 officialize 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 program will reach 4.3 billion euros ($5 billion) over the 2019-2025 budget period, up from the 3.6 billion euros originally planned.

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“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.”

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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 maneuvers,” she said.

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