Science 4 min read

U.S. Plans to Transition Air Force to Space Force

Image by sdecoret | Shutterstock

Image by sdecoret | Shutterstock

Donald Trump has called for the creation of a “space force” to work alongside other branches within the U.S. Armed Forces. The President’s idea, which is not new, isn’t without its proponents and opponents.

For millennia, warfare remained restricted to two domains, land and sea. Then, in the early 20th century, air was introduced as the third domain of warfare.

In recent decades, U.S. Armed Forces have achieved and maintained superiority in these three domains, especially after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Space technologies have drastically evolved over the course of the last few decades to the point that “space” is being considered a fourth domain of warfare.

There’s also a strong case to be made that the “cyber front” is also warfare domain, and it should be counted in before space in that regard.

Trump Touts the Idea of a U.S. Space Corps

Last month, Donald Trump said in a speech in California that he was musing about the idea of a new corps dedicated to space to operate alongside the other five traditional branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Trump again floated this idea while addressing the West Point football team earlier this month in a ceremony at the White House.

“You will be part of the five proud branches of the United States Armed Forces — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and the Coast Guard. And we’re actually thinking of a sixth, and that would be the Space Force,”  Trump told footballers. “You probably haven’t even heard that. I’m just telling you now. We’re getting very big in space, both militarily and for other reasons, and we are seriously thinking of the Space Force.”

In fact, the proposal to create a space force was first brought up last year.

In June 2017, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers introduced a legislation to split the Air Force and create a Space Corps to manage space activities, judging the Air Force to be “as fast as a herd of turtles as far as space is concerned.”

One supporter of a space force is General David L. Goldfein, the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, who thinks that it’s only a “matter of years” before space becomes a battleground.

Who Would the U.S. Fight in Space?

The U.S. Armed Forces consists of five military branches.

Officially established by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, the U.S. Army is the first branch of the armed forces. The Navy and the Marine Corps followed later in the same year.

It wasn’t until 1915 that the Coast Guard was created.

If the proposed “space force” gets established, it would be the first new branch since the creation of the Air Force after WWII (1947).

In 1982, however, the U.S. Space Command (AFSPC) was created within the Air Force whose mission is to “Provide resilient and affordable Space and Cyberspace capabilities for the Joint Force and the Nation.”

The idea is opposed by several military officials, including James Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense (and former Marine general), and the U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.

The plans for a U.S. Space Force raises an important question — who would it fight in Earth’s atmosphere? The Chinese? Russians? Alien invaders?

In 2015, Russia created a new command known as the Russian Aerospace Forces.

China, which is pushing its space exploration agenda forward, also has a command called the People’s Liberation Army Strategic Support Force. Their missions are similar to those fulfilled by the U.S. AFSPC.

Should the U.S. pursue a Space Force as a separate branch of its Armed Forces?  Or should space be seen as a neutral territory?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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