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Where will the future arms trade profits be found? And who will be making a killing (again)? Bruce Gagnon looks at the development of space-based weapons.

Iraq war emboldens Bush space plans

Military victory in the Iraq war has emboldened the Pentagon in their claims that space technology gives the US total advantage in time of war. According to Peter Teets, under secretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), American capability in space, “must remain ahead of our adversaries' capabilities, and our doctrine and capabilities must keep pace to meet that challenge”.

“I think the recent military conflict has shown us, without a doubt, how important the use of space is to national security and military operations,” Teets, a former Lockheed Martin executive, recently said.

In order to accomplish the goal of technologically leapfrogging the space program to the point of global “control and domination” a new agreement has been signed by NASA, US Strategic Command, the NRO and the Air Force Space Command to fully mesh all their research and development efforts together. Thus, we witness the takeover of the US space program by the military and the weapons corporations.

One such example of this new emphasis on technology sharing is the Bush administration announcement of Project Prometheus, a multi-billion dollar pro-gramme to create a nuclear rocket.

NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe, who claims everything NASA does from now on will be “dual use” (meaning it will serve both military and civilian purposes), has said, “propulsion power generation advances that are so critical to the purposes of achieving our exploration and discovery objectives are the same technologies that national security seeks to utilise”. It has long been said by the Pentagon that they will require nuclear reactors in space to power space-based weapons.

Another example of this new dual use relationship is the effort to replace the unstable space shuttle fleet. A $4.8 bil-=lion development programme is now focusing on the “military space plane”, with the Air Force playing a larger role in calling the shots.

A fleet of space planes will be designed to attack and destroy future satellites of enemies and rivals. A prototype is expect-ed by 2005 with deployment envisioned around 2014.

Special relationships?

According to James Roche, the USAF Secretary, America's allies would have “no veto power” over projects like the military space plane that are designed to give the US military control of space.

The NRO, the super secret spy agency which is responsible for US satellites, has been given the job to develop the strategy to ensure American allies or enemies never gain access to space without US permission. European efforts to build the multi-billion dollar Galileo satellite navigational system are seen as a direct threat to US plans for space dominance.

In a computer war game held at the Air Force's Space Warfare Center at Schrieverair force base in Colorado in spring 2003, the US practised such space “negation”.The war game, set in the year 2017, pitted the blue team (US) against the red team(China). Its scenario was fairly complex, incorporating several “opportunities for conflict in south-west and southern Asia”. Unlike the last such game in 2001, this year's version urged participants not to get “bogged down in discussions about space law and policies, which disrupted the game's military operations,” reported Aviation Week & Space Technology. This time around the ABM Treaty with Russia was no longer in existence.

A new arms race

Russia and China are renewing their call for a global ban on weapons in space. On31 July 2003 the two powers delivered their pleas at a session of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Both countries worry that Bush's call for early deployment of National Missile Defence (NMD) will create a new and costly arms race in space that will be difficult to call back. So far the US refuses to discuss a moratorium or ban on weapons in space - saying there is no problem and thus no need to begin negotiations.

Bush is calling for deployment of six NMD missile interceptors in Alaska, and four in California, by 30 September 2004.Ten more are due in Fort Greely, Alaska, by 2005. The $500 million construction project is headed by Boeing and Bechtel corporations. The big problem for Bush's deployment plan, to be carried out just prior to the 2004 national elections, is that the testing programme of the interceptor missiles is not going well. In addition to the fact that the hit-to-kill mechanisms are proving unreliable (trying to have a bullet hit a bullet in deep space), the booster rockets that are supposed to launch the”kill vehicle” into space are months behind schedule in development. The Bush solution to the problem has been to say that future testing will be done in secrecy.

Boeing, Bechtel, Lockheed...

Each of these Missile Defense Agency (MDA) tests cost over $100 million. Boeing was recently promised a $45 million bonus if it could carry out a successful test,but failed to do so. In fact Boeing has other troubles. Last January, two Boeing managers stationed at Cape Canaveral, Florida, were charged with conspiring to steal Lockheed Martin trade secrets involving another Air Force rocket programme.

Despite such fraud, delays, cost overruns and technology problems the US House and Senate continue to grant the Pentagon virtually every penny they request for Star Wars. In 2004, $9.1 billion will be awarded to the MDA for space weapons research and development.

Bush has, in his first three years in office, created the largest budget deficit in US history. As money for education,health care, social security, environmental clean-up, and the like are cut, military spending now accounts for the majority of federal spending in nearly every state. The US now accounts for 43% of world military spending.

Co-opted through business

The US is anxious for Australia, Britain, India, Israel, Russia, and others to become international partners in Star Wars. The programme will be so expensive (some say the largest industrial project in the history of the planet) that even the US can't pay for it alone. By pulling in the aerospace sectors of other countries,Bush knows he can blunt international opposition to his goals of a new and very expensive arms race that will clearly benefit the aerospace industry and the politicians that get the kick-backs.

As we recall George W Bush's post 9-11 statement that, “It's going to be a long, long war”, our eyes must turn to the larger issue of US plans for global empire. Recent disclosures in US News (21 July2003) about Pentagon “Operations Plan 5030” reveal a new war plan for North Korea. One scenario calls for US surveillance flights bumping up alongside North Korean airspace in hopes of creating the right incident to spark the pretext for war.

Real motives

Expanding US military presence worldwide is intended to secure scarce resources like oil and water for US corporate control. Growing “global strike capability”means smaller but more manoeuvrable troop deployments to rapidly suppress any opposition to US dominance. The people of the world are being told to submit to US authority or pay the price. US space technology is intended to tie this global military package together and to ensure that no military competitor can emerge.

The global peace movement we witnessed prior to the recent US attacks and occupation of Iraq is the other superpower in the world today. US ambitions for global control and domination in the end will fail because the people of the world will not allow any one nation to be the over-lord of the planet.

Between 4 and 11 October the Global Network will hold its annual Keep Space for Peace Week: International Days of Protest to Stop the Militarisation of Space. Local events are expected to be held on virtually every continent of the world to show the growing consciousness within the peace movement about the current US plan for control of space. We urge local groups to organise actions in solidarity with other groups on this day. Check our website at www.space4peace.org for details. Let us all do what we can to non violently resist this frightening global strategy.

GNAWPS, PO Box 652, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA (+1 207 729 0517; m +1 352 871 7554; email globalnet@mindspring.com; http://www.space4peace.org ).

Bruce K Gagnon is the Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.

Topics: Arms trade | Star Wars