Pentagon report outlines Eastern threats to US satellitesPosted by Annie May / February 12, 2019
A new report released by the Pentagon warns of a potential security threat to American satellites. Chinese and Russian laser technology has the capacity to target and destroy U.S. satellites which are crucial to geolocation, the military, and other operations.
The report titled Challenges to Security in Space examines the space technology capabilities of Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. The outlook was a cautious one.
American satellite systems play a crucial role in many functionings of American intelligence-gathering including targeting weapons, reconnaissance, and monitoring of foreign military operations. They are also responsible for detecting incoming enemy missiles.
The Current Security Concern
The report comes after an ambitious Chinese space program made a special achievement this year after landing a probe on the far side of the moon last month. It is the first nation to do so, heightening concerns that a new space race may be on the horizon.
The advancement of Chinese space capabilities has been met with a serious examination from American officials, with President Trump claiming it as one of the reasons why there must be an added branch of the military called the “Space Force.”
Chinese officials, however, have decried the report as being paranoiac and “completely without foundation.” Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters:
“What is alarming and concerning is that the US has defined the outer space as combat territory, announcing to build a space troop, frequently conducting outer space military drills.”
Anti-satellite technology has become more and more important in the military realm as of late. The Pentagon report details a variety of Russian and Chinese anti-satellite technology which includes electronic warfare, directed-energy weapons, and anti-satellite missiles.
“China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by 2020, and by the mid-to-late 2020s, it may field higher power systems that extend the threat to the structures of non-optical satellites,” the report reads.
Russia, however, is similarly developing this same technology. According to the report, Russia delivered a laser weapon to its Aerospace Forces around July 2018 which is likely to be used for anti-satellite weaponry.
In response to these perceived threats, the Trump administration has considered constructing advanced sensors in space which would detect and possibly prevent such laser attacks from occurring. The plan came with the Missile Defense Review unveiled last month.
Increasingly, it is seeming like space is becoming the next frontier for war. As U.S. and Chinese relations continue to deteriorate, trade tensions could easily spill over into all-out warfare. But the first targets would likely be not people, but military-grade technology in space.
China has already announced plans to step up its space program in the coming years, with plans to send its first probe on Mars by the end of 2020.