Star Wars: Russian “weaponizing” of space prompts new US force

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov takes a space walk in 2012. Image courtesy of NASA.

Moscow has been accused of “weaponizing” space and turning it into a “warfighting domain” by the United States – who has in turn created a new branch of the military for space security.

Russia has been singled out along with China as outer-orbit aggressors who have “militarized” space through their individual pursuits of hypersonic technology this week. As a result, US President Donald Trump has announced the establishment of the military’s sixth service called Space Force.

“We must have American dominance in space,” he told reporters on Monday. “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force: separate but equal, it is going to be something so important.”

The Pentagon’s top engineer Michael Griffin said Wednesday at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium that the US would not be eclipsed by its rivals.

“We are not the people who choose to weaponize space, but if we are challenged we will respond,” he said according to CNBC. “The Defense Department is today working on a means to defend our existing capabilities and we will be working on methods to project our national power onto our adversaries.”

According to Griffin, intercontinental ballistic missiles were the biggest threat posed by Russia.

Furthermore, US Vice President Mike Pence said during a speech at the Pentagon on Thursday that Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt space-based systems.

“Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already. And the United States will not shrink from this challenge,” he said.

The US military has more than 100 satellites, 77 operated by the Air Force and 12 by the Navy. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said it was time to think about how the United States would defend itself in space.

“Satellites are really pretty fragile things,” she said, as reported by the Washington Examiner. “We have to think now about, how do we defend a constellation?”

Space Force is expected to take a defensive approach to American safety in orbit – something which Russia has demonstrated is necessary, Wilson said.

“TASS, the Russian news agency last summer, said the Russians were launching the ability to repair their satellites on orbit. Well, if they can repair their own, they could also interfere,” she said.

For its part, Russia took the criticism with seeming humor. The Russian Embassy in the United States appeared to mock Trump’s creation of Space Force on Friday when it tweeted the logo of a rocket being launched with the Russian flag. “Good Morning, Space Forces!” it read.

Trump’s creation of Space Force marked the first new addition to military service since the the Air Force in 1947.

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