France to launch ‘fearsome’ satellites ‘armed with powerful lasers’ into space

Rob Waugh
French Minister of Defence Florence Parly presents the new defence space strategy in Base 942 in Poleymieux-au-Mont-d'Or near Lyon, eastern France. (Photo by Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It sounds like something out of a James Bond adventure, but France is to launch satellites armed with ‘powerful lasers’ into space.

The French Defense Minister Florence Parly said France was not being sucked into an arms race - and insisted the satellites would only be used to defend French space vehicles.

She said that the creation of a new French ‘space command’ announced by the president was central to a strategy to bolster defense capabilities, rather than offensive.

'If we want to be able to carry out real military operations in space, then we need to develop the ability to act alone,' Parly said, speaking at the Lyon-Mont Verdun air base.

'We reserve the right and the means to be able to respond: That could imply the use of powerful lasers deployed from our satellites or from patrolling nano-satellites.'

Parly described the mini-satellites that will patrol space from 2023 as 'fearsome little detectors that will be the eyes of our most valuable satellites'.

The ‘space command’, Parly said, would fall under the air force’s control.

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With space fast becoming one of the greatest challenges to national security, the government would draw up new legislation to hand oversight of all French activities in space to the defense ministry.

President Emmanuel Macron’s desire to create a space command followed U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to usher in a new space force that will form the sixth branch of the U.S. military by 2020.

Space and aeronautics company Thales had ambitions in the field, she said.

She called on France’s European partners to work together on space surveillance. 'In particular, I count on Germany to be at the heart of space surveillance.'

French convictions of the need to strengthen defence capacities in space were strengthened when a Russian satellite last year attempted to intercept transmissions from a Franco-Italian satellite used by both countries armies for secure communications in what it called an 'act of espionage'.

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