July 26 (UPI) -- The French Defense Minister's plans for a space weapons program will include military protection of its satellites.
Defense Secretary Florence Parly outlined a new direction for France's space program at an air base near Lyon on Thursday. The announcement comes after president Emmanuel Macron on July 13 called for a space high command to protect the country's existing future satellites.
The projects announced on Thursday include clusters of nano-satellites patrolling French satellites, a ground-based laser system to discourage enemy investigation and the possibility of remotely-fired weapons aboard some satellites.
"France is not embarking on a space arms race," Parly said. Her announcement, though, sets the plans for a military space command. She added that French space assets were recent targets of Russian espionage attempts.
"Since then, this intrusive satellite has left its business card with eight other satellites from different countries that have been spied on, scrambled or blinded," Parly said. "Threats are increasing. We have to face it, because it is our independence that is at stake."
Parly also announced a budget increase to boost France's space capabilities and its ability to defend itself in space. Another $780 million will be added to the budgeted $4 billion, through 2025.
"Today our allies and our military adversaries are militarizing space. We must act. We must be ready," she added.
European countries normally funnel their ambitions in space through the European Space Agency. Macron said it was important to fit France's defense actions into a "European framework," but added that the country's space command is designed to strengthen France's "strategic autonomy."
The announcements on Thursday came as China is investing in orbital drones, Russia is perfecting satellite jamming and the United States is organizing a space command as the sixth branch of its military.