Excited as ever in his idea of creating an American space combat force, US President Donald Trump said it is a necessity for Washington because its main adversaries – Russia and China – are way ahead of the US in terms of their rocket building ability, and with Russia, in terms of their ability to get to near-earth orbit – commonly referred to as ‘space (though inaccurately).
Trump was speaking at one of his rallies ‘Make America Great Again’, this time in Richmond, Kentucky. He was bragging about his record $700 billion in military budgets that would “fully rebuild the US military,” and decided, moreover, with a promotional line for the Space Force, whose creation is already under way.
“It’s very popular,” he said. “One of the biggest applause I get wherever I go is when I talk about the Space Force.”
The president then began to explain why it is such a necessary thing: because those whom the US defense establishment calls its “main adversaries” have an early advantage.
“Russia has already started, China has already started. They’ve got a start, but we have the greatest people in the world, we make the greatest equipment in the world, we make the greatest rockets, and missiles, and tanks, and ships in the world.”
Leaving aside the question of how Trump plans to use the best tanks and ships in the world in space – along with the rest of the American exceptional talk – he is not factually wrong. Just slightly off the mark, or possibly intentionally misleading the cheering crowd.
Russia, in fact, has had a space force – for years, in fact, and has recently joined the Air Force to create the Aerospace Forces. Just as the US used to have a Space Command since the 1980s, it became part of STRATCOM in 2002.
The main difference is in mission statements. The Russian Space Force exists to “observe space objects, detect threats to Russia in space and combat them if necessary,” launch satellites for military and dual use (military and civil), obtain satellite intelligence and keep them in operation. In short, nothing that any country with reasonable capacity to launch satellites, including the US, no longer does.
What Trump wants to do with his space force is to have the ability to “degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy, and manipulate adversary capabilities to protect US interests, assets, and way of life.” This make the US statement one of force, violence.
Protecting the American way of life is known to be a conveniently loose definition that has led the US to a series of wars, some of which are still ongoing on the other side of the planet.
Both China and, supposedly, Russia tested missiles on their own satellites in 2007 and 2015, respectively. But it would be misleading to say that they are ahead of the US on this, considering that the United States destroyed one of theirs in the same way in 2008.
What Trump may be referring to is the recent sighting of a MiG-31 above the Moscow region carrying a mysterious missile, which was immediately speculated to be a new Russian satellite killer. But so far this has remained just that: speculation.
As Russia consolidates its air, space and missile defense forces, the US is adding a new sixth branch to its already gigantic military machine. The creation of the “very popular” Space Force will cost the US taxpayer at least $13 billion in five years, an amount that will likely be revised up, according to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.