Experts: China Boosts Space Warfare Capabilities

U.S. military and commercial satellites highly vulnerable to Beijing’s anti-satellite missiles, killer robot satellites

China is developing anti-satellite missiles and other exotic weapons that can destroy or disrupt vital U.S. military and commercial communications, space warfare experts told Congress on Tuesday.

“The current and evolving counterpace threat posed by China to U.S. military operations in the Asia Pacific theater and outside is extremely serious,” said Ashley J. Tellis, a former State Department and National Security Council strategic specialist.

“And the threat ranks on par with the dangers posed by Chinese offensive cyber operations to the United States more generally,” said Tellis, now with the Carnegie Endowment.

China’s military is preparing for a future military conflict with the United States, and as a result its counterspace weaponry is being developed to limit U.S. joint warfighting that currently is very reliant on satellites for communications and the maneuvering forces over long distances, Butterworth said.

“For the near term, at least, I think [China] will probably favor systems to achieve mission kill by attacking U.S. satellites directly, either from orbit or on the ground,” said Butterworth, now head of the consulting firm Aries Analytics.

As part of preparations for future space warfare, China is seeking to determine what U.S. satellites to kill, and in the future may covertly place sensors in space near key U.S. strategic satellites to assist in targeting for future attacks, he added.

The Chinese space threat “won’t be moderated by proselytizing space norms, or deterrence by demarche, or a code of conduct for good guys in space,” Butterworth said.

Tellis, however, said he doubts a collaborative arrangement can be reached with China on conduct in space because Beijing recognizes that U.S. military operations are far more reliant on space. Thus U.S. military advantages can be neutralized by Chinese attacks on U.S. satellites.

Future attacks on U.S. satellites would give China asymmetric military advantages that the Chinese are not likely to give up through diplomacy, he said.

These dangers are acute because U.S. space systems are extraordinarily vulnerable and extraordinarily valuable at the same time,” Tellis said.

Asked which satellites flying at high-orbit or low orbit are most at risk of attack, Butterworth said satellites at both altitudes in danger.

“The Chinese have recently demonstrated a high-altitude, direct ascent ASAT capable of reaching geo-[synchronous orbit],” Butterworth said, referring to satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above earth.

Additionally, the Chinese recently launched small satellites that are very difficult to track that can interfere with satellites at different altitudes, he said.

The latest annual report by the congressional U.S. China Economic and Security Commission said China on May 13 launched a suborbital missile that went into high-altitude but did not place a satellite in orbit.

“Although Beijing claims the launch was part of a high-altitude scientific experiment, available data suggest it was intended to test at least the launch vehicle component of a new high-altitude antisatellite (ASAT) capability,” the report said.

Full article: Experts: China Boosts Space Warfare Capabilities (Washington Free Beacon)

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