President Trump: "We must have American dominance in space. So important." (Picture: PA).
US President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to create a US Space Force, which he said would be the sixth branch of the armed forces.
The President said the Space Force would be “separate but equal” to the US Air Force, as he stressed that America must have “dominance in space”.
It follows the announcement by British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson last month of the launch of the UK's first Defence Space Strategy.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council, Mr Trump framed space as a national security issue, saying: “We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us.”
He said: "When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. So important.
"Very importantly, I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. That’s a big statement.
"We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important."
This would be the first new US military branch since the Air Force began in 1947.
The United States is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which bars countries from placing weapons of mass destruction in space and only allows the use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes.
The idea of a Space Force has been raised before, by Mr Trump and previous administrations.
Congress considered and rejected a similar proposal last year for a standalone space corps to deal with threats in orbit, but Trump rekindled the idea in a March speech when he described it as “like the army and the navy, but for space, because we’re spending a lot of money on space".
Mr Trump also promised the US will return to the moon, and eventually send people to Mars.
He said: "This time, we will do more than plant our flag and leave our footprints. We will establish a long-term presence, expand our economy, and build the foundation for the eventual mission to Mars — which is actually going to happen very quickly."