Russia has re-established its military space forces as an independent branch of the country’s armed forces. The newly established Space Forces—responsible for the operation of early-warning satellites and radars, the Moscow-area missile defense system, and other space-based capabilities such as photo-reconnaissance satellites—officially began operation June 1.
The transition appears to be related to the demotion of the Strategic Rocket Forces, which lost its independent status in April and will likely be subsumed into the air force. (See ACT, June 2001.) Russia’s military space forces had been independent until they were incorporated into the rocket forces as part of military reforms enacted in 1997.
Space Forces chief Colonel General Anatoly Perminov has said the change indicates that Russia has recognized the increasing importance of space assets in conventional conflicts. At the same time, Perminov has emphasized in a recent series of press briefings and interviews that the increased prominence of the force should not be misinterpreted as evidence of a Russian intention to weaponize space.
Perminov takes command of a satellite network that is widely considered to be crumbling. Just last month, a control center for key early-warning satellites burned down, at least temporarily limiting Russia’s ability to detect the launch of long-range missiles from the United States. (See ACT, June 2001.)