US prepares new strategies in the face of possible space war

Published On March 23, 2018 | By | News, Sci/Tech

U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fist after speaking at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California, U.S. on March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Matthew Frank

Wars in space might not involve darting spaceships, fiery explosions and grand laser battles from the movies.

But, a new branch of the military seems like something straight out of science fiction — and may still be something to worry about — thanks to ideas raised by President Donald Trump. 

In a March 13 speech, Trump floated the idea of a theoretical space force fighting alongside an air force as he addressed a crowd of U.S. Marines in California. 

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war fighting domain,” Trump said.  “Just like the land, air and sea.”

 He said he initially came up with the idea as a joke, but “then I said, what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.”

The House Armed Services Committee drafted legislation for a Space Corps. program in June 2017, which received opposition.

The U.S. Air Force didn’t want it and even the White House objected to such a plan.  

The Space Corps. program never made it into the final National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA) bill in November of 2017 .

But while the initial program was dismissed, it’s only a matter of time before a full-fledged space program takes shape, according to a statement from US Air Force secretary Heather Wilson. 

There has always been a military aspect to the space race.

  After the Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik into orbit in the 60s’, the Americans jumped on board space exploration with two space programs, a civilian program known as NASA, and a militarized one.

NASA may be more known to the public, but the militarized program is just as big.

Not ‘Star Wars’.

Don’t expect science fiction space pirates in terms of how a space force would look, said Carlton University mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Alex Ellery.

“It’s far more likely that it will look like drone warfare and cyber hacking,” Ellery said. 

He said satellites can be operated and used from the ground level and that drones could be controlled remotely. 

“It would be too expensive and inefficient for the U.S. to invest in a space program that uses weapons to destroy one another,” Ellery said.  

According to the US Fiscal Budget for 2019, the office of management and budget request $716 billion for their national defence. 

The 2019 budget shows an increase of 2.29 per cent from the 2018 fiscal budget of $700 billion. 

Space militarization in progress

Plans are being drawn up to prepare the U.S. for a space war with China or Russia, according to a report by the National Defence Strategy.

And, according to a statement from U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates in 2017, “both [China and Russia] will continue to pursue a full range of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons as a means to reduce U.S. military effectiveness.”

One of the major concerns Coates notes in the statements, the national security threats U.S. faces are not just missiles, but cyber attacks.   

Given society’s reliance on technology, some believe cyber attacks have the capability to be as bad as a nuclear crisis.

It’s not just the U.S.

Cyber attacks have already wrecked havoc in some parts of the world.

Ukraine experienced a power outage last year that was caused by a cyber attack, according to Reuters news.

Ukrainian security services blamed Russia and it was seen as one of the first examples of a cyber attack shutting off critical energy systems.

And, experts believe, cyber attacks could have very serious implications abroad as well in that hacking into satellite feeds could shut down the power grid.

Space should be peaceful

Ram Jakhu, professor at McGill University’s institute of air space and law, thinks a space war could have serious implications for global security on land. 

“It’s difficult to imagine what sort of life we would have without technology,” Jakhu said.

“All communications are heavily dependent on satellites. If there’s an interruption, natural life could be very difficult,” he said.

The U.S. military toyed with the idea of an Air Force space station in orbit in the 1960s, but the idea was discarded by President Richard Nixon because technological space efforts were deemed to be more efficient and effective.

Now, despite the opinions of some current leaders, the idea of a space war is not likely any time soon 

Peace, however, is rocky at best and is in need of repair first, according to a speech given by UN secretary general António Guterres last year.

While the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans the placement of weapons of mass destruction in Earth’s orbit, there’s no comprehensive agreement on what, exactly, a space weapon would be. 

Jakhu said he prefers space to be peaceful and as free as possible.

“[Space] should be used for peaceful purposes. Our futures depend upon peace and security,” he said.   

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