“U.S. generals planning for a space war they see as all but inevitable.”
That was the headline of a two-and-a-half page article in last month’s issue of the aerospace industry trade journal Space News.
The world is at a crossroads as to war in space.
President Joe Biden has not pulled back on the Donald Trump-initiated U.S. Space Force which Trump demanded to “have American dominance in space.’”
Russia and China (and U.S. neighbor Canada) have long pressed for the PAROS (Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space) treaty. It would ban all weapons in space.
The PAROS treaty would expand the landmark Outer Space Treaty of 1967 put together by the U.S., Great Britain and Soviet Union and which has wide support of nations around the world. The Outer Space Treaty sets aside space “for peaceful purposes” and bans weapons of mass destruction in space. Russia and China have reiterated in recent times their call for no weapons in space. But the U.S. has blocked the PAROS treaty at the UN.
Meanwhile, last year the U.S. Space Force unveiled its admittedly “first offensive weapon”—and more are in development.
Russia and China—despite their decades of pressing for the PAROS treaty—can be expected to respond in kind. Other nations will move up into space with weaponry.
The heavens will be turned into a war zone, and there will be no going back. Is war in space indeed “inevitable?”
It is not inevitable if the scheme of a U.S. Space Force and its aim of seeking American “dominance” of space is pulled back.
Through diplomacy—and a strong system of verification—space can be kept for peace.
The “U.S. generals planning for a space war they see as all but inevitable” headline was over an article based on speeches given at the 36th Space Symposium held in Colorado Springs between August 23 and 26th including statements made by U.S. military leaders and executives of corporations involved in U.S. military contracting.
“A competition for space dominance between the United States and rival powers China and Russia prompted the Trump administration and Congress in 2019 to re-establish the U.S. Space Command—which has been deactivated since 2002—and create the U.S. Space Force as an independent service branch,” the article related.
It then quoted U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall saying “in a keynote speech at the symposium” that “China has moved aggressively to weaponize space.”
There was no mention in the article that China and Russia have for decades been pressing for a treaty that would prohibit the placement of any weapons in space, the PAROS treaty—and the U.S. at the UN has blocked the treaty from being enacted.
The Space News article does report Carey Smith, “CEO of defense and cybersecurity contractor Parsons,” having “noted” at the symposium that the “only foundation of international space law that current exists, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, is outdated and doesn’t address most space security issues that could set off a war.”
“I think the path to war in space is really based upon a space arms race,” said Smith of Virginia-based Parsons, “and we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to delay it up until this point, but it is perhaps imminent.” A “new set of space rules is needed for the current space age, Smith said,” according to the article. “We really haven’t addressed some of the very difficult questions,” including: “Are we going to ban any form of weapons in space.”
The article quoted Lt. General John Shaw, deputy commander of the U.S. Space Command as saying that the U.S. is “only starting to grapple with what space warfighting means.”
And Chris Kubasik, vice chairman and CEO of L3Harris, headquartered in Florida and described by Reuters as the “sixth-largest defense contractor with a market value of $34 billion,” is reported to have said “there should be more awareness of the risks of an attack against a satellite precipitating a broader conflict.”
“I think it’s the biggest threat facing our nation,” Space News quoted Kubasik as asserting.
Also, the piece said Kubasik declared that “public awareness and education about the nation’s dependence on space are needed” to help the U.S. Department of Defense “get the funding to make sure that we deter our adversaries in space.”
“If you think of the impact of a war in space and how it impacts something as simple as our cellphones, navigation, supply chain, logistics, healthcare. I think it is a serious issue,” said Kubasik. “And I think we have to continue to talk about it.”
Trump was abundantly clear as he pushed for a U.S. Space Force of its aim. He proclaimed at a meeting of the National Space Council in 2018 that “it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space.”
As for Biden, as Defense News headlined this year: “With Biden’s ‘full support,’ the Space Force is officially here to stay.” Its article opened: “U.S. President Joe Biden will not seek to eliminate the Space Force and roll military space functions back into the Air Force, the White House confirmed.” It continued: “White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters during a Feb. 3 briefing that the new service has the ‘full support’ of the Biden administration. And it went on: “‘We’re not revisiting the decision,’ she said.”
Democrat Biden’s sticking with Republican Trump on the Space Force follows most Democrats in the U.S. Congress voting for the National Defense Authorization Act that provided for its formation as a sixth branch of U.S. armed forces. Meanwhile, all Republicans in the U.S. Congress voted for it.
A rationale now being voiced for the U.S. Space Force, including at the Space Symposium, is that it is necessary to counter moves by China and Russia in space, particularly development of anti-satellite weapons.
This’s what a CNN report in August 2021, titled “An Exclusive Look Into How Space Force is Defending America,” centrally asserted. There was no mention in the six-minute-plus CNN piece of how China and Russia have led for decades in the push for PAROS, and how China and Russia have recently reiterated their calls for space to be weapons-free.
“We are calling on the international community to start negotiations and reach agreement on arms control in order to ensure space safety as soon as possible,” said the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, in April 2021. “China has always been in favor of preventing an arms race in space; it has been actively promoting negotiations on a legally binding agreement on space arms control jointly with Russia.”
A day earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov called for talks to create an “international legally binding instrument” to ban the deployment of “any types of weapons” in space. Lavrov said: “We consistently believe that only a guaranteed prevention of an arms race in space will make it possible to use it for creative purposes, for the benefit of the entire mankind. We call for negotiations on the development of an international legally binding instrument that would prohibit the deployment of any types of weapons there, as well as the use of force or the threat of force.”
The call by China for the PAROS treaty was repeated this past week. In a speech on September 28th at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Li Song, China’s disarmament envoy, urged the U.S. to stop being a “stumbling block” on the PAROS treaty.
The Conference on Disarmament, through which the PAROS treaty needs to be passed, operates on a consensual basis—there needs to be unanimity for a measure to be approved.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Space Force drives ahead.
It has requested a budget of $17.4 billion for 2022 to “grow the service,” reports Air Force Magazine. “Space Force 2022 Budget Adds Satellites, Warfighting Center, More Guardians,” was the headline of its article. And in the first paragraph, it adds “and fund more than $800 million in new classified programs.” (“Guardians” is the name adopted by the U.S. Space Force in 2021 for its members.)
One after another, U.S. Air Force bases are being renamed U.S. Space Force bases.
The U.S. Space Force “received its first offensive weapon… satellite jammers,” reported American Military News in 2020. “The weapon does not destroy enemy satellites, but can be used to interrupt enemy satellite communications and hinder enemy early warning systems meant to detect a U.S. attack,” it stated.
Soon afterwards, the Financial Times’ headline: “U.S military officials eye new generation of space weapons.”
In 2001, the headline on the c4isrnet.com website, which describes itself as “Media for the Intelligence Age Military,” declared: “The Space Force wants to use directed-energy systems for space superiority.”
A personal experience with the U.S. anti-PAROS stand occurred in March 1999. In my book Weapons in Space, I tell of giving the keynote address at a UN conference titled “The Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space.” The event was organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. On the following day, another vote on the PAROS treaty was to be held on it at the UN’s Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
As part of my presentation, I displayed various documents including a 1997 report of the U.S. Space Command titled Vision for 2020. “US Space Command—dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict,” said Vision for 2020.
I noted Vision for 2020 saying: “Historically, military forces have evolved to protect national interests and investments-both military and economic.” Nations built navies, said Vision for 2020, “to protect and enhance their commercial interests” and during “the westward expansion of the United States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains, settlements and railroads. The emergence of space power follows both of these models. During the early portion of the 2lst Century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare.”
I displayed the comments of then U.S. Space Command Commander-in-Chief Joseph W. Ashy in Aviation Week and Space Technology in 1996: “It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen,” said the general. “Some people don’t want to hear this…but—absolutely—we’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space….We will engage terrestrial targets someday—ships, airplanes, land targets—from space.” (Original italics)
I displayed a photo of the entrance of the headquarters in Colorado of the 50th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force emblazoned with the unit’s motto: “Master of Space.” The 50th Space Wing is now a component of the U.S. Space Force.
I spoke of the “military use of space being planned by the U.S.” being “in total contradiction of the principles of peaceful international cooperation that the U.S. likes to espouse” and “pushes us—all of us—to war in the heavens.”
I was followed by Wang Xiaoyu, first secretary of the Delegation of China. “Outer space is the common heritage of the human beings,” he said. “It should be used entirely for peaceful purposes and for the economic, scientific and cultural development of all countries as well as the well-being of mankind. It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race.”
The U.S., he said, “has over the years continued its efforts in developing space weapons with a view to deploying such advanced weapon systems in outer space in the near future. Huge amounts of human, material and financial resources have already been put into relevant plans and programs. The momentum has recently been greatly intensified. These ominous efforts will bring about the weaponization of outer space and lead to an arms race there. So, PAROS has already become a present and pressing issue.”
The next day, on my way to observe the vote, I saw a U.S. diplomat who had been at my presentation—and it was clear from his facial expressions during it that he wasn’t happy with my remarks.
We approached each other and on an anonymous basis, he said he would like to explain the U.S. position on militarizing space. As related in Weapons in Space, he said that the U.S has trouble with its citizenry in fielding a large number of troops on the ground. But “we can project power from space” and, said the official, that is why the U.S. military was moving in that direction. I said if the U.S. moved ahead with this, would not other nations respond in kind? He replied that the U.S. military had done analyses and determined that China was “30 years behind” in competing with the U.S. militarily in space and Russia “doesn’t have the money.” I contested that and said a huge, potentially catastrophic miscalculation was being made. We parted in disagreement.
Then he went to vote and at I watched as again nation after nation voted for the PAROS treaty—but not the U.S. diplomat I had spoken to—and PAROS was blocked once again.
Later that day, I sat in the UN cafeteria with a group of young Chinese diplomats who said if the U.S. moved into space militarily, China would, too. “But we don’t want to,” emphasized one. China, he said, does not want to divert its resources on expensive space weaponry.
Craig Eisendrath, who as a young U.S. State Department office was involved in the Outer Space Treaty’s creation, told me—and I quote him in my book Weapons In Space—“we sought to de-weaponize space before it got weaponized…to keep war out of space.”
The model, he said, was the Antarctica Treaty which provides that Antarctica is to “be used for peaceful purposes only.”
Of the Outer Space Treaty, “This foundational treaty has allowed for half a century of ever expanding peaceful activity in space, free from man-made threats,” writes Paul Meyer in his chapter, “Arms Control in Outer Space: A Diplomatic Alternative to Star Wars,” in the book Security in the Global Commons and Beyond.
U.S. interest in militarizing and weaponizing space goes back well before the Vision for 2020 and other bellicose 1990s U.S. plans for space, or in the 1980s Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative dubbed “Star Wars.” Its roots are with the former Nazi rocket scientists and engineers brought to the U.S. from Germany after World War II under the U.S.’s Operation Paperclip.
They ended up at the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama—to use “their technological expertise to help create the U.S. space and weapons program,” writes Jack Manno, a State University of New York professor, in his 1984 book Arming the Heavens: The Hidden Military Agenda for Space, 1945-1995.
“Many of the early space war schemes were dreamt up by scientists working for the German military, scientists who brought their rockets and their ideas to America after the war,” he writes. Many of these scientists and engineers “later rose to positions of power in the U.S. military, NASA, and the aerospace industry.” Among them were “Wernher von Braun and his V-2 colleagues” who began “working on rockets for the U.S. Army,” and at the Redstone Arsenal “were given the task of producing an intermediate range ballistic range missile to carry battlefield atomic weapons up to 200 miles. The Germans produced a modified V-2 renamed the Redstone….Huntsville became a major center of U.S. space military activities.”
Manno tells the story of former German Major General Walter Dornberger, who had been in charge of the entire Nazi rocket program, and how he “in 1947 as a consultant to the U.S Air Force and adviser to the Department of Defense…wrote a planning paper for his new employers. He proposed a system of hundreds of nuclear-armed satellites all orbiting at different altitudes and angles, each capable or reentering the atmosphere on command from Earth to proceed to its target. The Air Force began early work on Dornberger’s idea under the acronym NABS (Nuclear Armed Bombardment Satellites).”
In my subsequent Weapons in Space, Manno tells me that “control over the Earth” was what those who have wanted to weaponize space seek. He said the Nazi scientists are an important “historical and technical link, and also an ideological link….The aim is to…have the capacity to carry out global warfare, including weapons systems that reside in space.”
Dornberger’s nuclear link continues in various forms throughout the U.S. space military program. The Strategic Defense Initiative scheme of Reagan—although this was barely disclosed at the time—was predicated on orbiting battle platforms with on-board hypervelocity guns, particle beams and laser weapons. They were to be energized by on-board nuclear reactors.
As General James Abrahamson, SDI director, said at a Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, “without reactors in orbit [there is] going to be a long, long light [extension] cord that goes down to the surface of the Earth” to bring up power to energize space weaponry.
B. Spice, “Sm Looks to Nuclear Power,” Albuquerque Journal, 12 January 1988, p.A1A 1996 U.S. Air Force report, New World Vistas: Air and Space Power for the 21st Century, speaks of how “new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict. These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills.” However, “power limitations impose restrictions” on such space weaponry making them “relatively unfeasible,” but “a natural technology to enable high power is nuclear power in space.” Says the report: “Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space.”
This linkage continues.
A 104-page report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in 2021 declared: “Space nuclear propulsion and power systems have the potential to provide the United States with military advantages.”
The report’s central focus is the advocacy of rocket propulsion by nuclear power for U.S. missions to Mars and lays out “synergies” in space nuclear activities between NASA and the U.S. military.
On December 19, 2021, just before he was to leave office, Trump signed Space Policy Directive-6, titled “National Strategy for Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion.” Its provisions include: “DoD [Department of Defense] and NASA, in cooperation with DOE [Department of Energy], and with other agencies and private-sector partners, as appropriate, should evaluate technology options and associated key technical challenges for an NTP [Nuclear Thermal Propulsion] system, including reactor designs, power conversion, and thermal management. DoD and NASA should work with their partners to evaluate and use opportunities for commonality with other SNPP [Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion] needs, terrestrial power needs, and reactor demonstration projects planned by agencies and the private sector.”
It continues: “DoD, in coordination with DOE and other agencies, and with private sector partners, as appropriate, should develop reactor and propulsion system technologies that will resolve the key technical challenges in areas such as reactor design and production, propulsion system and spacecraft design, and SNPP system integration.”
The members of the committee that put together the report for the National Academies included executives of the aerospace and nuclear industries—keys in U.S. space policy. For example, as the report states, there were: Jonathan W. Cirtain, president of Advanced Technologies, “a subsidiary of BWX Technologies which is the sole manufacturer of nuclear reactors for the U.S. Navy,” Roger M. Myers, owner of R. Myers Consulting and who previously at Aerojet Rocketdyne “oversaw programs and strategic planning for next-generation in-space missions [that] included nuclear thermal propulsion and nuclear electric power systems; Joseph A. Sholtis, Jr., “owner and principal of Sholtis Engineering & Safety Consulting, providing expert nuclear, aerospace, and systems engineering services to government, national laboratories, industry, and academia since 1993.” And so on.
The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space was formed in 1992 at a meeting in Washington, D.C. and has been the leading group internationally challenging the weaponization and nuclearization of space.
Bruce Gagnon, its coordinator, said of the Space News article:
“There can be no doubt that there is a serious disconnection going on in the minds of the leading Space Force commanders and top-execs inside the aerospace corporations that are benefiting from the arms race in space. They know about the ‘Kessler syndrome’ that predicts serious cascading collisions in space orbits due to the growing problem of debris orbiting the Earth.”
“In 1998, Apollo astronaut and Moon walker Edgar Mitchell predicted that one war in space would be the first and last. So much space debris would be created he told a large protest I organized outside the gate of Florida’s Kennedy Space Center that humankind would be ‘entombed to the planet’ because we’d not be able to get a rocket though the minefield of
debris orbiting the Earth.
“As accelerating collisions of growing numbers of satellites would be impacted by the mounting debris caused by war in space, life on Earth would go dark,” continued Gagnon. “The satellites that currently enable cell phones, ATM machines and internet banking, GPS, highway traffic control, weather prediction, air-traffic control, cable TV, and much more would be caught in this blinding smash-fest caused by the out-of-touch military ‘leaders’ who think they can win a war in space and remain ‘Master of Space’ as they currently declare themselves.
“Our leaders are misleading the public and we’d better stop giving them unlimited taxpayer dollars to create these technologies to ‘control and dominate space’ on behalf of corporate interests as they declared in the 1997 Space Command document Vision for 2020.
“Life on Earth is fragile enough due to climate crisis—which is being exacerbated by the toxic-fueled launches of thousands more satellites for 5G—without the growing likelihood of war in space.
“The international public must speak out loudly and often if we wish to stop these dangerous and destabilizing Pentagon plans to rule the world via military space technology,” declared Gagnon.
In the coming days, between October 2nd and 9th, the Global Network will be holding its annual “Keep Space for Peace Week” with gatherings and protests around the world.
“In 1999 the United Nations General Assembly declared that October 4-10 every year would be designated ‘World Space Week’ to ‘celebrate the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition,” says the Global Network, and “we ask people to recognize this as a time to Keep Space for Peace.”