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Us wants space superiority { November 7 2004 }

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US ready to put weapons in space

Defence expert says America is likely to ignore treaty ban

Mark Townsend
Sunday November 7, 2004
The Observer

America has begun preparing its next military objective - space. Documents reveal that the US Air Force has for the first time adopted a doctrine to establish 'space superiority'.
The new doctrine means that pre-emptive strikes against enemy satellites would become 'crucial steps in any military operation'. This week defence experts will attend a conference in London amid warnings that President Bush's re-election will pave the way to the arming of space.

Internal USAF documents reveal that seizing control of the 'final frontier' is deemed essential for modern warfare. Counterspace Operations reveals that destroying enemy satellites would improve the chance of victory. It states: 'Space superiority provides freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack. Space and air superiority are crucial first steps in any military operation.'

Theresa Hitchens, vice-president of a Washington-based independent think-tank, the Centre for Defence Information, said: 'These documents show that they are taking space control seriously.'

This week's meeting, held by the British-American Security Information Council (Basic), will also discuss whether Britain can restrain a US administration intent on strategic control of space.

Next year's budget for the US Missile Defence Agency includes funding for research into the development of 'space-based interceptors'. Although the funding allocated to develop lightweight ballistic missile parts is only 7.5m, further details have emerged of a more ambitious programme to site weapons in space.

Plans for a 'thin constellation of three to six spacecraft' in orbit, which would target enemy missiles as they took off or landed, are planned, according to Hitchens. The document, said Hitchens, signals that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which outlaws the use of weapons in orbit, will be ignored.

Of equal concern to some UK defence experts is Britain's agreement in principle to station US interceptor missiles at RAF Fylingdales, North Yorkshire. Participation in the missile defence programme means that Britain is already 'locked into' a programme that could ultimately include space warfare, say those who are monitoring developments.

'If the UK government tries to argue that it is participating in missile defence, but not in the weaponisation of space, either officials have been duped or they are being disingenuous,' said Hitchens.

Suggestions of a deepening relationship between Britain and America over missile defence surfaced again last week. A parliamentary statement from Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to Labour MP Llew Smith conceded that the MoD has sent two experts to work at the US Missile Defence Agency. Another two will be sent next year.

In a separate debate last week, defence minister Lord Bach admitted that the US was encouraging Britain to become involved in its missile programme. 'The US has offered to extend coverage and make missile defence capabilities available to the UK and other allies, should we require them,' he said.

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