France to create new space defence command in September

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
France plays a leading role in the EU's space exploration programmes

France will set up a new space defence command in September, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.

Speaking a day before the annual Bastille Day celebrations, Mr Macron said that the command would help to "better protect our satellites, including in an active way".

Analysts say this marks a switch from a defensive to an offensive posture.

Mr Macron's proposal follows similar moves by the US, China and Russia in recent years.

Last year, US President Donald Trump ordered the formation of a sixth branch of the country's armed forces - a "space force".

Media caption,
Could Trump's 'Space Force' become a reality?

He said it would be unacceptable to let either China or Russia lead in space,

What did President Macron say?

He told the country's military brass the new space command would replace the current joint space command set up in 2010.

"We will strengthen our knowledge of the space situation, we will better protect our satellites, including in an active way," the president said.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
President Macron said the renewed military focus on space was a "true national security issue" for France

"And to give substance to this doctrine, to ensure the development and reinforcement of our space capabilities, a large space command will be created next September within the Air Force, which will eventually become the Air and Space Force."

President Macron also talked of reinforcing strategic autonomy within a European framework, which analysts see as an attempt to make sure the European Union is not edged out by American and other competition.

The European Space Agency launch site at Kourou in French Guiana gives France a leading role in space - one that President Macron is determined to preserve, correspondents say.