General Michel Friedling, space commander, explains Friday March 12 on News i that space is a “major concern” of the French army because some satellites “may have military applications or weapons on board”. Since Monday, France has been training for space warfare in Toulouse. Emmanuel Macron goes to the site on Friday to observe this operation, this simulation of a space attack called AsterX.
News i: What is the objective of this exercise?
General Michel Friedling: The goal is not so much to simulate a space attack. The objective is first of all to train our space units, the command units. It is also to implement all our operational processes internal to the space command, but also with all our external partners because we have a lot of them. It is also to test the systems that we are implementing in order to prepare the rise in range of our command, because we have ambitious objectives and which were set for us in a strategy which was requested by the president of the Republic and developed under the direction of the Minister of the Armed Forces, Madame Parly.
Concretely, how can the French army defend itself in space?
The first thing is first to realize that we are threatened. This is already the difficulty of the thing because space is vast, there are more and more active satellites, but also debris, and that it is a novelty, the satellites which are in the air. space is no longer content to revolve around the planet very wisely in Keplerian orbits, that is to say very predictive. Satellites move in space, change orbit planes, change altitude, can come closer to other satellites. In itself, this is already a matter of major concern because some of them may have military applications or weapons on board. In 2017, a Russian spy satellite approached a Franco-Italian military satellite.
How can we react to this specific case?
This is a concrete case that was revealed by the Minister of the Armed Forces in 2017. These are the kinds of situations we are faced with in space. There are countries which have experimented with anti-satellite missiles fired from the ground, which are capable of destroying satellites in low orbit between 400 and 1,500 km. So this is another form of threat. But there are others. There may be cyber threats.
“There may be threats from satellites which have the appearance of civilian satellites, but which in reality may have military applications, hence directed energy weapons.”General Michel Friedling, space commander
to News i
We can talk about lasers. We can also talk about robotic arms that can grab a satellite and cause it to drift or that can tear off a solar panel. All kinds of things that are extremely dangerous.