The Space Force Becomes a Weapons System, Arms Companies Profit

Photograph Source: United States Space Force – Public Domain

As the world gets used to what the US military calls “Full Spectrum Dominance,” the complex uplinks/downlinks, spurious RADAR returns, cyber glitches, and misinterpretations of big data bring the world closer to its ends, especially as US systems–including possibly nuclear–are orbited or put into the loop of the new Space Force.

But the news isn’t all bad. So-called defense contractors continue to profit from laying the groundwork for Armageddon. They include the usual suspects: Boeing, Harris, Lockheed, Northrop, and Raytheon.


The Space Command was created during the Cold War and later integrated into the Air Force as the Air Force Space Command under George W. Bush before being briefly revived by President Trump and then formalized as a separate Space Force, which continues to work closely with the Air Force.

The National Defense Strategy Commission says that during the Cold War “space was an arena of intense major-power competition,” notably between the US and USSR. “Subsequently, the lack of a peer competitor” following the collapse of the Soviet Union, “produced a casual assumption of U.S. space dominance and diminished attention to potential rivalries in space.” Referring to China and Russia, the report concludes that the US “is again competing with major-power rivals, and space is once again—and will remain—a critical and an increasingly contentious domain” and, ominiously, that “much of the space portfolio is classified.”

In 2003, the Undersecretary of the Air Force told Congress that “[a]chieving effective space control … requires us to think about denying the high ground to our adversaries through Offensive Counterspace (OCS)”–i.e., space weapons. He added that via “the integration of space capabilities across the spectrum of our own warfighting operations, we have been paving the road of 21st century warfare … We currently have two OCS projects underway. The first is the Counter Communication System (CCS),” which he described as “a capability intended to disrupt satellite-based communications used by an enemy.” As we shall see, Trump’s Space Force fully weaponized CCS. “The second is the Counter Surveillance Reconnaissance System (CSRS),” about which less is known.

Space weaponization was not the exclusive purview of the Republican administrations of Reagan, Bush II, and Trump. Indeed, “Full Spectrum Dominance” was planned under Bill Clinton. In 2010 and despite previous promises that “I will not weaponize space,” President Obama authorized the launch of the X37-Boeing, whose capabilities were not disclosed, but were described by military officials at the time as enhancing “react[ion] to warfighter needs more quickly.”


In violation of the UN’s Outer Space Treaty 1967, the spirit of which seeks to keep space not only weapons-free but a commons for scientific and cultural development, the US Defense Authorization Act 2019 establishing the Space Force guaranteed “freedom of operation for the United States in, from, and to space.”

The Space Force says: the associated Air Force’s “strategy for winning future conflicts is creating a resilient battle network that connects ships, ground forces, planes and satellites to fight together at speeds far surpassing any adversary.” The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) writes: “China and Russia began developing military capabilities to prepare for future, high-end conflict and to undermine U.S. influence,” so the “DoD developed a new strategy to change course and drive our decisions.” Interesting to note the admission that Chinese and Russian “aggression” is actually the inhibition of US operational freedoms.

The Space Force will solidify “our ability to control space,” says the Defense Wide Review FY 2021. The National Defense Strategy Commission says: space is “an increasingly important and contested domain and the United States must place special emphasis on ensuring dominance there.” The United States Space Force Vision for Satellite Communications report says that $14.1bn will boost “the new U.S. Space Force and associated organizations” and improve “satellite communications capabilities; space-based warning, and space launch capacity.” Satellite communications (SATCOM) will fall under the control of the Space Force and include “Full-spectrum Defensive Space Control (DSC) allowing warfighters to communicate through any environment.”

Much of the public funding via the war budget goes into the pockets of private companies.

Space News reports that “Northrop Grumman developed the payloads for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites made by Lockheed Martin.”

In his book The New Space Race, Erik Seedhouse notes that for years Northrop Grumman has been developing the offensive, electronic warfare CCS, described by the RAND Corporation as “a ground-based radio frequency jammer and the only [offensive space control] capability acknowledged by the United States.” Capabilities reportedly include secure uplinks and jamming capacities, including of the Russian global navigation system, the GLONASS. Recently, the Harris Corporation was awarded $44 million to modify Block 10.2, which relates to detection, navigation, and guidance for the CCS.

On 31 January 2020 and in keeping with the erstwhile Space Command’s long-promised goal, to achieve “Full Spectrum Dominance” by this year, the Space Force announced: “21st Space Wing squadron poised to receive first Space Force weapon system.” Lt. Col. William Sanders says: “The upgraded CCS system is a game-changer for deployed ground forces.”


Traditionally, the UK has played a background role in US space weapons, missile technology, satellite surveillance, tracking, and guidance. It has provided integrated bases as RAF Menwith Hill and other locations, as well as playing a core role in the Five Eyes network of “security” stations, along with the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. In August 2019, the British Royal Air Force expanded its role in US space dominance support when Deputy Director of the Combined Space Operations Center, Group Captain Darren Whiteley, signed the weekly Combined Space Tasking Order.

Writing for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, specialists Hans M. Kristensen and Matt Korda note that in 2019, the US Strategic Command’s exercise Global Lightning included “four B-52s deployed to RAF Fairford in England (two more joined later) for month-long operations over Europe, which included unprecedented four-bomber strike formations over the eastern Baltic Sea and north along the Norwegian coast.” B-52s are nuclear-capable and clearly a threat to Russia. Military and Aerospace Electronics reports that SATCOM experts at Raytheon switched terminals aboard the B-52 and RC-135 reconnaissance craft “to the latest Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite under terms of a contract worth nearly a half-billion dollars.”

The provocations continued with Global Lightning 20, designed “to integrate and synchronize efforts across several combatant commands,” says STRATCOM. “USSTRATCOM has global responsibilities assigned through the Unified Command Plan that includes strategic deterrence, nuclear operations, joint electromagnetic spectrum operations, global strike, missile defense, and analysis and targeting.”

Crucially, one of the Commands was the new Space Force, which reported that “Exercise Global Lightning 20 successfully concluded with the most commercial partnership participation to date at the Combined Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base.” Civilian contractors from seven corporations–Eutelsat America Corp., Inmarsat, Intelsat General Communications, Iridium Communications, MAXAR Technologies, SES Government Solutions, Viasat, and XTAR–were involved in the Commercial Integration Cell which “supported the exercise by rapidly identifying, diagnosing and resolving on-orbit requirements.”


US allies Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK (four of the Five Eyes) are helping to endanger the species—and the 30 million or so other animal species unlucky enough to live on the planet with us—by collaborating on the long-planned US decision to shift its terminally destructive military capacities into space. These actions are designed, in part, to provoke Russia and China and in doing so fuel the hi-tech economy from which few giant corporations prosper magnificently.


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T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).

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