Books - Weapons in Space: Space Becomes Explosive

Neither Star Wars nor Sanctuary; Constraining the Military Uses of Space,by Michael E. O’Hanlon. Published by Brookings Institution Press, 2004, 176 pages

The World Today Published 1 November 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 2 minute READ

Michael Sheehan

Professor of International Relations, University of Aberdeen

This is a disturbing book, the more so for the obvious common sense and moderation of the author. Michael O’Hanlon analyses whether weapons are likely to be introduced into space soon and whether such a development should be welcomed or feared.

The author acknowledges that the militarisation of space is as old as the space age itself, satellites having performed a wide variety of military support functions for decades, and since the end of the Cold War, have been used effectively as instruments of tactical warfighting as well as strategic force-multipliers.

Since 1990, satellites such as global positioning systems have been crucial to the United State’s ability to target its military opponents with extremely accurate weapons such as cruise missiles and joint direct attack munitions. By the time of the intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, American use of satellite support for its forces had quadrupled compared to the 1990-91 Gulf war against Iraq.

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