U.S. strategic military satellites are vulnerable to attack in a future space war and the Pentagon is considering a major shift to smaller satellites in response, the commander of the Air Force Space Command said Tuesday.
Gen. William Shelton said in a speech that China currently has a missile that can destroy U.S. satellites and warned that the threat of both space weapons and high-speed orbiting debris is growing.
The four-star general also said he is wary of the United States joining an international code of conduct for space, an initiative promoted by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The code likely would constrain the United States’ freedom of action in the increasingly contested realm of space, he said during remarks at George Washington University.
If any of these critical satellites are attacked and destroyed in a conflict or crisis, the loss “would create a huge hole in our capability” to conduct modern, high-tech warfare, Shelton said.
“Space has become contested in all orbits, where we face a host of man-made threats that may deny, degrade, or disrupt our capabilities,” Shelton said, noting electronic jamming, laser attacks and “direct attack weapons,” which are all systems being developed by China’s military.
Jamming satellites is “a cheap and effective way of blocking our signals from space” and lasers “can blind our imaging systems, and in the future, they could prove destructive to our satellites,” he said.
“Direct attack weapons, like the Chinese anti-satellite system, can destroy our space systems,” Shelton said.
China’s successful landing of a robot rover on the moon last month revealed “an aggressive Chinese space program,” Shelton said.
China is also building anti-satellite weapons that range from ground-launched missiles that destroy orbiting satellites, ground-based lasers, electronic jammers, and cyber attacks, according to defense officials.
The latest annual report of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated that China recently conducted a test of a high-earth orbit anti-satellite missile.
The test signaled “China’s intent to develop an [anti-satellite] capability to target satellites in an altitude range that includes U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and many U.S. military and intelligence satellites,” the report said. The Free Beacon first reported the test.
Defense officials also disclosed in January 2013 that China launched three small maneuvering satellites as part of its ASAT program, including one with a robotic arm that can be used to capture or destroy orbiting satellites.
America’s enemies have been studying U.S. war fighting efforts in the past several decades and are “going to school on us,” Shelton said, specifically the revolutionary way the U.S. military uses satellites to integrate information assets in combat.
He compared the current threat of space warfare to the beginning of the space flight age in the 1960s.
“Just as the start of space flight signaled a fundamental shift in military operations, in my mind, so does this new era of challenging another nation’s space assets,” he said. “Sad, but true, in every medium, mankind has found a way to make it a medium of conflict. Land, sea, undersea, air and now space and cyber.”
Full article: General: Strategic Military Satellites Vulnerable to Attack in Future Space War (Washington Free Beacon)