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Star wars – US recruiting space allies

THE US military wants to better protect its satellites and strengthen its ability to use them as weapons.
As the uncharted battlefield becomes increasingly crowded and dangerous, Pentagon leaders say a new military strategy for space is needed and called for greater cooperation with other nations on space-based programs to improve America’s ability to deter enemies.

“It’s a domain, like air land and sea,” General Kevin Chilton, who headed US Strategic Command until he retired recently, said.

The US, he said, needed to make sure that it protected and maintained the battlefield capabilities it got from space-based assets, including global positioning data, missile warning system information, and communications with fighters or unmanned drones.

As the US and other countries depend more on their satellites for critical data, those assets become greater targets for enemies.

Last year, the US launched the top secret space plane, the X-37B, in what some onlookers called the first salvo in the “weaponisation of space”.

It landed some nine months later, but to date, there has only been speculation about its purpose based on observation of its movements.

The US plans to launch another space plane sometime around May. China and Russia are both reported to be working on similar projects.

Recently, Russia suggested the US may have used an electromagnetic pulse weapon to cripple the launch of one of its satellites.

While the new military strategy stresses the peaceful use of space, it also underscores the importance of orbiting satellites in both waging and deterring war.

“We need to ensure that we can continue to utilise space to navigate with accuracy, to communicate with certainty, to strike with precision and to see the battlefield with clarity,” deputy defense secretary William Lynn said

Mr Lynn and other Pentagon leaders say space has become more congested, competitive and contested, and the US needs to keep pace.

General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US and other nations must develop rules of the road for space that lay out what is acceptable behaviour and movement there.

At a forum put on by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Gen Cartwright said nations need to have guidelines that govern the approximately 22,000 manmade objects orbiting Earth, including about 1100 active satellites.

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