The outer space of the atmosphere has become a means of confrontation and is recognized as such by the majority of the powers that can access it by means of some sovereignty or even the development of means of struggle towards or within space (anti-satellite experiments, US missiles since 1959, and anti-satellite missiles. Satellites and satellites by the Soviet Union from 1961, anti-satellite missiles from China in 2007 and then by India in 2019).
Previously, space was above all a place where the ideological, industrial and technological competition and competition of great powers were expressed. The grammatical rules for this confrontation, which combine gestures, first techniques and wit, belong to the diplomatic sphere although they most often use the means entrusted to armies. As long as the United States and the USSR are the main players in this game, one can hope for an adequate balance of disarmament from outer space. Thus, Jean Klein wrote in 1971: The possibility of destroying enemy satellites does not mean that they will be used to suppress “space espionage”, as for the hypothesis of a surprise attack, whose success can be guaranteed thanks to the destruction of the navigation satellites that also lead nuclear submarines. As with the simultaneous bombing of airports and missile bases, it is based on dangerous speculation and does not correspond to the possible development of Soviet-American relations. Over the next few years, the United States and the Soviet Union will above all seek to stabilize the strategic balance, and since satellite monitoring will be a critical factor, this will undoubtedly lead to a temporary method of tolerance. Mutual regarding this type of space activity. (1) »
Only, have new actors appeared on the scene, who consider space a potential field of confrontation, such as China. In addition, technical means have evolved and it is now possible to design work patterns that were not seen much in 50 years, as we have seen. But above all, the increasing dependence of societies on the services provided by space, regardless of the economic and political model applied, and on the military forces, including armed groups less fortunate with high-tech weapons, has naturally led to an increase in the volume of intentions and means of actors in space. .
The need for a military space strategy at some point may seem unnecessary and even dangerous, as it may indicate the emergence of combat intent in this environment. Of course, military means were designed and used. Of course, guidelines and doctrines were developed, but the rule, backed by texts was nonetheless somewhat imprecise and thus potentially permissive, and practice has so far made it possible to avoid the perception of a very intense armed conflict in this milieu. On the one hand, science fiction and the production of geopolitical thriller films have paid great attention to the topic. As is so often the case, the authors’ imaginations operate by analogy with what happened over the oceans and in the air, two tilted environments with which space can easily be compared at first glance.
The Ministry of the Armed Forces, far from diminishing interest in the work of these authors, has created ” The red team»Which has been in operation since October 2020 (2). This team develops scenarios. But it is for militaries to think, in part on the basis of this work, of the concepts and doctrines that will govern the conception, planning and execution of potential operations in space.
The quote from Jean Klein alerts us to the first occurrence: not wanting something does not mean that it will not happen. The second hurdle, related to the first, is preventing yourself from thinking about something so that it doesn’t happen. In the case that concerns us, it is necessary not to show offensive and hostile intentions, even if only to avoid an arms race, whose possible consequences we know. But also respecting the spirit of treaties that tried to limit the military use of space …
However, developing a military strategy in space, in the broadest sense, is not just a matter of will. It is also the fruit of theoretical work that is nourished and based on experience accumulated over the years and through conflicts. Fortunately, however, there is no experience, and the theory is only in its infancy for space, especially compared to Earth, the sea, and, to a lesser extent, air.
This lack of practice can be partly compensated for by a conceptual work that always relies on comparisons, on kinship, assumed or proven, and on principles considered to be of general application. However, he reveals that in his encyclopedic work on strategy, Hervé Coutau-Bégarie did not include a specific entry for space strategy, while there is an entry for marine aspects and one for the air environment, where the terrestrial environment is De factoIt is considered the basis of all strategic thinking (3). One thing appears to be certain: the ground strategy cannot serve as a basis for reversal as the characteristics of the environments differ, particularly in terms of liquidity.
At first glance, immediate kinship appears to favor an air strategy. In fact, the technologies used, if not completely identical, are closely related and share common origins. Then operational practices, particularly in the C2 domain, are very similar, as they are built on comparable principles. However, the similarities should not mask the differences that relate to the physical properties of the environment as much as they relate to the continuity, in fact very relatively technically speaking, between the two environments, the atmosphere and the outer atmosphere.
Here a concept that already exists on the surface can be used: the Sahel concept. Indeed, this area where sea meets land has long been the area where naval and land strategy meet. Means applied in an environment unless it has the ability to operate in another environment, except within the limits of the range of weapons available, which has been restricted for a very long time. Therefore strategies for each environment are well aligned with the reality on the ground. The emergence of air assets changed the situation. Able to operate from both quarters, above and between, the military air power made it possible to unify intermediate strategies. Today, the increase in the technical capabilities of missiles, especially in terms of guidance and range, makes this totality almost independent of aircraft use, but certainly not related to the space in which the most advanced weapons systems are increasingly being adopted.
Mastering the outer space of the atmosphere, although it provided many new capabilities and services, did not yet have such a major strategic influence. In particular, due to the confinement of operations to the margin surrounding the land and the urgent need, at the present time, to link with land operations. In fact, the sensors and means of communication for nearly all space resources are directed toward the Earth’s surface or work for the land, sea, or air forces. Therefore, bearing in mind the close connection that has been maintained with the general strategy and despite its absolute presence within the framework of both civilian and military activities, the use of means deployed in the outer space of the atmosphere, so far, has not led to the design of a special strategy.