Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk advised the Air Force to concentrate on innovation and support industry competition as the service seeks to build the nation’s newest military branch — the Space Force.
Last week, in a chat with the chief U.S. Air Force officer on space research and acquisition at the Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Musk said the commercial space industry must try more to develop reusable rockets. SpaceX is presently the leader in that effort.
“Creating a completely reusable system and having that be in volume production and volume launch that’s super, super difficult,” Musk told Air Force Lt. Gen. John Thompson, adding that planning one-use rockets was “quite easy.”
“The vehicle we are working on currently, which is pretty difficult, is Starship and that has the capability for full reusability,” Musk said Friday, adding that the plan was doing well.
“But I think it would be wonderful to have other companies also do full reusability. I believe competition is a nice thing,” he said.
“The Joint Strike Fighter, there should be a contestant … that’s a debatable subject but I don’t think it’s good to have one supplier,” Musk said of Pentagon’s most expensive weapons system.
He later explained on Twitter that the F-35 competitor should be a drone.
“The rival should be a drone fighter plane that’s remote-controlled by a human, but with its drills augmented by autonomy. The F-35 would have no chance beside it,” he wrote of the Lockheed Martin jet.
During the course of his discussion with Thompson, Musk cautioned that the United States was at threat of falling behind other nations if it did not give precedence to innovation.
“This is not something that was a threat in times past but is a risk now,” Musk said. “I have no doubt that if the United States doesn’t pursue innovation in space it will be second in space.”
Musk also forecasted that the Chinese economy will eventually outdo the United States’ by at least two-fold.
“A thing that will feel quite strange is that the Chinese economy is perhaps going to be at minimum twice as big as the United States’ economy, maybe thrice,” Musk said.
“The basis of war is economics,” Musk said. “If you have half the assets of the counterparty, then you better be really innovative. If you’re not inventive, you’re going to lose.”