Space Weapons: Earth Wars

Space Weapons: Earth Wars

Space Weapons: Earth Wars

Space Weapons: Earth Wars


Space weapons have been debated intensely in the past. The latest instance of prominent debate is over their use for ballistic missile defense. But this is not the only possible role for space weapons, and that fact raises a further concern: What if an adversary were to develop such weapons? Could one? Why would it? It is time for broader public discussion of the issues. Before deciding to acquire or forgo space weapons for terrestrial confict, the United States should fully discuss what such weapons can do, what they will cost, and the likely consequences of acquiring them. The authors of this report seek to aid this discussion not by arguing for or against space weapons but by describing their attributes, classifying and comparing them, and explaining how each might be used. The authors also explore how a nation might decide to acquire such weapons and how other nations might react.


Since at least the era of Thomas D. White as Air Force Chief of Staff, the Air Force has espoused the full use of the medium of space for national security. Its 1997 vision document, Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century, made clear that

the Air Force recognizes that any further) use of space will be driven by national policy, international events, … and threats…. However, the nation will expect the Air Force to be prepared to defend U.S. interests in space when necessary.

Since then, the topic of full exploitation of space for national security has become prominent in current congressional interest. A national debate on space weapons seems near.

In preparation for that debate, this report is intended to provide a common vocabulary and common expectations of the possibility, utility, legalities, and limitations of using space weapons in terrestrial conflicts. This report defines and classifies these weapons, describes their different attributes, and explains how they might be used. It explores ways in which the United States and other countries could decide to acquire such weapons. It also explores the ways they could be acquired.

The study was sponsored by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Programs (AF/XP). The result should be of interest to a wide audience

I Beyond intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; warning; position location; weapons guidance; communications; and environmental monitoring.

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