RUSSIA COMBINES AIR FORCE AND SPACE COMMANDSAugust 10, 2015
These articles were shared by many regular readers here, and their general content raises certain questions, given the current geopolitical tensions between the West and the emerging BRICSA bloc, within which, of course, the Russian continues to be the premier thermonuclear and space power. Each of the articles says essentially the same thing. It's the reading between-the-lines part that is difficult:
Pause and consider a very obvious point, namely, that the great powers have traditionally created services branches of their militaries when the technological and economic needs and capabilities have emerged to sustain them on a permanent basis. For example, the ideas of professional navies emerged in the ancient world only gradually, eventually reaching the establishment of a permanent ocean-going military arm (at least in western history), with the Roman Empire, a practice which continued throughout the Byzantine period, and which was transferred to the Ottoman Empire, the Italian city-states, and eventually to the early modern Atlantic maritime powers. These two service branches, armies and navies, continued to be the norm up until World War One and its immediate aftermath, when technological advances made the airplane more than just a platform for carrying cameras for reconaissance and lightweight bombs. By the early 1930s, Great Britain had the Royal Air Force, Soviet Russia had the Red Air Force, and Germany the Luftwaffe, as seperate service branches. Now Russia has joined the USA in establishing a fourth branch of armed forces (or, alternatively, has extended its Air Force into outer space), a space force.
One must view these developments within the long history of the militarization of human space: first land was militarized, then the oceans, then the airspace above our heads, and now space itself. The establishment of service branches, in other words, means the inevitable presence of weapons in the areas covered by that service branch's field of operations.
In effect, Russia's move is an acknowledgement of the inevitable, brought about by careful consideration of the similar integration of air and space command structures in NATO, as the first article avers, Marshal Shoigu, Russia's Defense Minister recognizes this reality quite well:
Shoigu, introducing the new military branch, described the merger of Russia’s lofty services as “the best option for streamlining our nation’s system of air and space defense,” and said the move was prompted “by a shift in the combat ‘center of gravity’ toward the aerospace theater.”
Maxim Shepovalenko, a former Russian military officer and analyst at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think tank, said this new focus reflects lessons learned in the wake of NATO’s intervention in Yugoslavia in the late 1990s.
“Based on what we saw [then], air and space attacks are the first stage of any conflict, be they small, medium or large,” Shepovalenko said. “[In this regard], the prime reason for the merger is to ensure a prompt response to any attack coming from the air or space with a streamlined and unified command.”
Modern militaries, such as the U.S.-led NATO alliance, consider air and space to be a seamless theater of war. Ballistic missiles travel through both, and air forces are supported by space-based communications and intelligence satellites.
Russia, the U.S. and China are all working on anti-satellite weaponry that could bring war into space, prompting the imperative of new defensive strategies.
This new command structure and operational doctrine, not surprsingly, entails a Russian strategic missile defense component:
A reported 20 percent of the 20 trillion ruble rearmament drive was set aside to buy new equipment such as S-400 air-defense systems and the developmental S-500, which reportedly will have the ability to intercept targets at the edge of the atmosphere.
As the Moscow Times article also avers:
“It is an incomplete integration,” Shepovalenko said. “Compared to the U.S. Air Force, which wields both the sword and the shield, we will be incorporating only the shield.” This indicates that the focus of Russia’s new branch is on countering advanced U.S. missiles currently under development as part of the Prompt Global Strike program — a project to field a hypersonic missile capable of hitting anything on the globe in 30 minutes — while offensive nuclear missiles will be kept under a separate command, Shepovalenko said.
These words require careful unpacking, but their meaning is clear: just as it is the US intention to dominate the high ground of space strategically, to enable it to use that high ground to interdict any point on the globe with strategic offensive, and probably space-based or space-utilizing weapons, so Russia intends to dominate space strategically, and defensively interdict any potential American offensive uses of space.
All of which makes one wonder, once again, about those curious statements of Mr. Medvedev a month prior to the Chleyabinsk meteor strike, that Russia would have to develop an asteroid defense system, in partnership with others on the best scenario, and independently if necessary, a capability that, you'll recall, Mr. Medvedev indicated would be reliant on thermonuclear weapons or (to paraphrase) "other modalities" for the destruction of "asteroids."
If you, like me, have been watching all this bizarre space news lately, from Pluto and Ceres to Japanese and Chinese plans for the Moon and lasers, to Russian asteroid defense and now,combined aerospace commands, one wonders if, indeed, geopolitics is the only context for these developments.
See you on the flip side...