12:05 GMT +318 July 2019
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    Macron's 'Space Force' Coming? CNES Head on France's Cosmic Industry Boost

    © AFP 2019 / Ludovic Marin
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    The development of space industry has become France's priority, CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall told Sputnik, commenting on the government's effort to increase investment in the sector. However, the agency has not received any specific orders regarding the formation of full-fledged "space forces" so far, he said.

    The National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), the French government space agency, is waiting for French President Emmanuel Macron to make strategic decision on forming the country's "space force", Jean-Yves Le Gall, the president of the agency, told Sputnik France, emphasising that CNES has long been involved in the development of military satellites.

    "The plan was sent to the president of the [French] Republic, not to the president of CNES", he said. "CNES is serving the Ministry of Defence and performing dual functions. Now most military satellites in orbit are relying on CNES. We are waiting for the decisions that will be made".

    French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly echoed Donald Trump's idea to create a sixth branch of the US military focusing on space in late June 2018, by arguing that France should invest more in surveillance of outer space.

    "We must be able to invest more in space than we do today so that we can monitor it and prevent it from becoming a theatre for major confrontations", Parly told France 2 national television channel.

    On 7 September, during a visit to the French space agency's Toulouse headquarters, Defence Minister Parley mentioned "suspicious activities of the Russian space satellite" that allegedly approached the Athena-Fidus satellite, operated jointly by France and Italy, "too closely".

    Having said this, she underscored the importance of boosting the role of the Joint Space Command (JSC) formed in 2010, and even called for the creation of a space force.

    "I have heard many people mock the announcement of the creation of an American Space Force. I am not one of them… I see it as an extremely powerful sign, a sign of future confrontations", Parly highlighted.

    During her speech, the French defence minister noted Paris' decision to invest 3.6 billion euros ($4.2 billion) to upgrade the country's military satellites between 2019 and 2025. Previously, on June 28, the French parliament adopted a bill on military planning for 2019 to 2025, in an effort to increase defence spending up to 2 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

    Commenting on Parly's Toulouse statement, Le Gall noted that the goal is to update observation and communication satellites, modernize radar monitoring and develop anti-satellite weapons.

    However, he remarked that CNES is largely engaged in peaceful programmes and humanitarian assistance, as the centre's satellite system was designed to prevent and cope with natural disasters.

    "We have developed a program of assistance to states affected by serious disasters. We are currently assisting Haiti", he said.

    When asked whether the UN treaty limiting military activities in outer space must be renegotiated, the CNES president noted that "there may be reasons to renegotiate this charter, but no specific proposals except vain wishes have been put forward so far". He added that CNES is closely cooperating with the United Nations.

    "I should note that if France intends to accelerate the development of space forces, many countries, such as China, Russia or Japan, are launching many more military satellites than Europe", he remarked.

    Still, according to Le Gall, the government's intention to increase investments in the space sector by almost 14 percent in 2019 (to 1.9 billion euros), as well as to allocate 3.6 billion euros for the field, clearly indicates that the space industry has become France's "priority".

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    Space Force, space, United Nations, CNES, Florence Parley, Emmanuel Macron, Donald Trump, Europe, United States, France
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