France to conduct joint space exercises with US, Parly says

France created its Air Force Space Command in 2019, following the US Space Force

France and the U.S. will conduct joint exercises in preparation for the militarization of space, France’s Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said.

“Our respective space commanders have strong dialogue together,” Parly said during a joint press briefing with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon on Monday, January 27.

“There will be exercises, common exercises, with each other,” she said, offering no other detail.

France established its Space Command, part of the French Air Force in September 2019 for national defense purposes, President Emmanuel Macron said at the time. France intends to have weaponized satellites capable of destroying other satellites in orbit by 2030.

“Our nations have been in space for many, many years,” Esper said. “It’s just been recently that both China and Russia pushed us to the point where it became a war-fighting domain.”

The Pentagon has sought ways to maintain an edge over Russia and China’s increased development of hypersonic weapons, which can outmaneuver land- and sea-based missile defense systems on earth.

Russian officials have cited past U.S. experimentation with hypersonic conventional weapons as a motivation for developing their own versions.

The Trump administration established the Space Force as a separate military branch in December 2019 “to make sure that we can preserve space as a global commons,” Esper said.

Space is an integral domain “not just to our security but to our commerce, our way of life, our understanding of the planet, weather, you name it.”

He said that the U.S. intends to work to develop alliances with space-faring countries for future cooperation.

The French government does not intend to engage in a “space arms race,” but rather a “reasoned arsenalization,” an unnamed member of Parly’s cabinet told French magazine Le Point last year.

The international Outer Space Treaty of 1967 forbids the placing of nuclear weapons in space but permits conventional weaponization.

France’s Space Operations Command is based in Toulouse. Its budget is expected to top €4 billion by 2025.

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