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Space Force: Trump officially launches new US military service (news) by Pratyush Pandey

Space is not just a support function, it’s a warfighting domain where we need to be prepared to compete, deter and win”

With these words, Donald Trump has formally signed in for the establishment of the United States Space Force which is the newest military branch of the United States since the establishment of the Air-force shortly after the Second World War. With its formation it becomes the sixth armed forces branch in the country, joining the Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The general idea behind its formation was inferred in Mike Pence's speech wherein he says "We must have American dominance in space." So, let us first look into what this Space Force is all about.

The United States Space Force (USSF)

At first hand, the Space Force sounds like a defense wing wherein there would be astronaut soldiers who would wield blasters and fight enemy aliens but this is quite farfetched a thought. Rather, the Space Force is constituted to focus on national security and preserving the satellites dedicated to international communications and observation.

Pentagon’s report on the creation of the Space Force clearly states that Space Force would be tasked with developing and testing new national-security capabilities and technologies in space. The agency would be led by a four-star general or flag officer, who would direct the operations and would lead a separate wing of space experts gathered from throughout the US armed forces. In its report, the Pentagon has clearly stated that its formation is a strategy to address the growing rivalry of China and Russia in space.

Up until now, there was no independent military branch focused on space, but there was a space command within the air force. The command was established in 1982 with it is headquarters at Peterson air force base in Colorado. It was essentially tasked with using a radar system to monitor ballistic missile launches to guard against a surprise attack on the United States.

Therefore, with the establishment of the Space Force, the United States have now an elite group of warfighters specializing in the domain of space which is one of its kind.

Salient features of this force

As per the report released by the Pentagon and the Department of Defence some of the salient features of the Space Force are –

● With the formal establishment of the USSF, it becomes the sixth branch of the armed force.

● Most of its personnel will come from the Air Force. Army, and Navy. As of now recruitment from the Marine Corps has been put on hold.

● It will recruit Civilian employees as well under the auspices of the Department of the Air Force. But this has been held for the future.

● The Space Force would specifically look for people with a technical background in warfighting.

● It would constitute the smallest US armed forces holding about 15,000 personnel.

● As of its establishment in the FY20 a budget of $72.4 Million is being requested, for approximately 200 personnel to stand up the Force’s Headquarters.

● The Space Force will be responsible for organizing, training, and equipping military space forces to provide for freedom of operation in the space domain.

Implications for the global community

The establishment of the Space Force will allow the Defence Department to deliver space capabilities that would be exhaustive and far more superior to that of the adversaries. This would allow us to tackle down the threats in space and will bring the greater capability to the nation.

It implies that not only is it aimed at safeguarding the national and military assets in space, but it is also aimed at developing peace and stability in space once it becomes a commercial hub. It is logical because China is not far behind and is encouraging its private companies like Land-Space in working towards deep space exploration, mining resources from outer space, etc.

Its establishment also implies that it would lead to a dilution of power within the other armed forces. Therefore, now instead of a 3-way division of the U.S. defense budget, there would be a four-way split. This consequently implies that the Space Force will have its command, and will develop its agenda.

Geopolitically, the Space Force is a sign that the United States has made its dominance in space and is paying attention to contest leadership even in space. This would set a standard that will surely influence others to organize their space activities. This would again lead to a race between nations, a space race that was once with rockets would now be with space security as its subject matter.

India-US relations in brief

The U.S.-India relationship has its foundation in common values and democratic principles. Both these nations have shared interests in promoting global security, stability, and economic prosperity through trade, investment, and connectivity. The United States supports India’s emergence as a leading global power to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity.

Bilateral trade between US-India in 2018 was $142 billion. U.S. energy exports are an important area of growth in their trade relations. India purchased 48.2 million barrels of U.S. crude oil in 2018. In 2017 Indian students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities contributed over $7 billion to the U.S. economy. The total number of Indian students in the United States is at a record high of 196,000 in 2018.

India and the United States work closely at multilateral organizations like the United Nations, G-20, World Bank, etc. The United States has always supported India's stand as a permanent member of the UN. In these ways, India and the United States share an intimate tie as political entities working towards global betterment and advancements.

Why is it needed?

As of now Russia and China are the U.S.'s greatest space competitors and potential military threats. Both of these nations had at multiple instances demonstrated formidable space capabilities and this is where the Space Force comes in as a safeguard and a major necessity.

Considering the U.S. as a nation-state relying heavily on satellites for multiple reasons like forecasting the weather, defense intelligence, directing missiles, etc, the threats become obvious. Certain instances of possible threats are as follows –

Russia has revived its Russian Space Forces in 2015 as a branch of the Russian Aerospace Forces. In the same year, China established the People's Liberation Army Strategic Support Force as space and cyber warfare branch of the Army.

In 2007, China developed a missile that was capable of destroying satellites as it climbed skyward for 500 miles until it impacted one of the country's weather satellites. Similarly, in 2014, a supposed Russian space junk called Object 2014-E28 turned out to be an autonomous robot that was capable of docking onto satellites. China since long has been investing in hypersonic missiles capable of evading U.S. detection. Russia, on the other hand, had integrated anti-satellite attacks. Therefore, for all these reasons the threat to US space assets is certainly quite obvious.

Thus, it cannot be denied that there are galactic threats to the US, particularly from adversaries like Russia and China, which are similar in capabilities and war-front potential. Therefore, an agency like the Space Force becomes a necessity. But an agency like this is not only for superpowers like the US but is also equally important and necessary for a developing nation like India because considering the present world and the potential of the adversaries every nation who has its share in the outer space should be ready for war, even if it is in the galactic heaven.

Is there a similar force in India?

India has also mooted for the formation of a military space agency called the Defence Space Agency (DSA) which was to command all the space assets of the Indian army, navy and air force. The establishment of the DSA was announced on June 10, 2008, by the then defense minister AK Antony. It was established to make an increase in the space defense infrastructure and is headed by a two-star general. Even in the absence of the DSA, India had had a Military Space Cell under the aegis of the Integrated Defence Services (IDS) which dealt with the Indian assets in space.

In 2019 the Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared the setting up of the Defence Space Research Agency (DSRA) which is a team of scientists who would work in close coordination with the tri-services integrated defense staff officers and will provide research and development support to the DSA to help the country secure its space assets.

Now, Military space or the usage of space assets to enhance military functioning in the modern-day context has become an essential element of a nation’s defense. India should also strive to establish a practical context for its space strategic domain and therefore India also needs to establish its Space Force.

Probable future

As of now, many details about the Space Force remain uncertain, but one thing that could surely be concurred is that its establishment marks as one of mankind’s initial steps towards the future and therefore it should be taken with responsibility and care.

A possible probability that could be deduced from its establishment is that now other nations who have their assets in space would move towards the formation of similar autonomous agencies for their “space assets” which would, in turn, lead to a race. This race would again be similar to the space race which was once kindled by the Apollo mission.

There is also some apprehension in the minds of the critics who are saying that because the Force would draw resources and a necessary 13,000 personnel away from other military branches, this could weaken the U.S. military overall and this could be a serious backlash to the Space Force.

Another probability with its establishment is that with the incremental interference in the space domain there would certainly be an increase in the debris pollution and for this serious measure are necessary or else establishment of this agency would go futile.

These are certain probabilities that are possible to occur with the establishment of the Space Force and therefore for any such dire situation, the agency should be ready with a countermeasure to tackle the same or else the very establishment of the agency will go in vain.

Conclusion

With the formation of the United States Space Force it is clear that America is dreaming big with it, but with its establishment, it also becomes essential for the States to think big as well to make its space security agenda more inclusive.

From a space security perspective, the United States needs to evolve a mechanism for the generation of space situational awareness because with the Space Force it is important for the other nations to know about the space and the debris pollution out there which could be a serious impediment in way of space assets and commercialization of the space.

America has identified space as a strategic domain in its overall security architecture and therefore using satellite technology for military purposes becomes an aspect of its overall space security architecture and, therefore, it becomes its responsibility to be vigilant of its rights and duties.

Most importantly America should maintain a transparent agenda for the conduct of activities in space and should be against the weaponization of outer space and this is how the agency would be fruitful to us avoiding any future possible dread of war.


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