“We're gone from a concept of space as a 'common good' in the service of science, to a space where countries are struggling for global supremacy,” Parly told the Provence newspaper of Marseille.
The new Air and Space Force, which Parly will make official during a visit to France's military flight training school at Salon-en-Provence, will have a staff of 500 by 2025, she said.
French defence minister Florence Parly. Photo: AFP
Investments in the programme will reach €4.3 billion over the 2019-2025 budget period, up from the €3.6 billion originally planned.
“In no way are we engaging in an arms race,” Parly said, reiterating a stance announced when President Emmanuel Macron unveiled the new space initiative last year.
“But it's my responsibility to make sure we have thoroughly identified the threats our country could face.
She pointed to a 2017 incident in which Paris accused Russia's Luch Olymp satellite of trying to spy on the Franco-Italian Athena-Fidus satellite, used to provide secure military communications.
“The fact is that satellites can now get close to ours and scramble their signals or damage and even destroy them,” she said.
“Soon we will have small patrol satellites that will allow us to detect and identify those responsible for any unfriendly manoeuvres,” she said.