July 23 test ‘concerning,’ ‘problematic’
OMAHA—China last month conducted another test of a satellite-killing missile that reflects Chinese efforts to weaponize space, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said Wednesday.
“It’s very problematic to see China working to weaponize space in tests like this one they just had, and so [it’s] very concerning to me as the U.S. Strategic Command commander, and to our nation at large, given our dependency on that capability,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, Strategic Command chief.
Haney, speaking to reporters after remarks to a Stratcom-sponsored conference on nuclear deterrence, also voiced worries about the recent increase in Russian strategic nuclear bomber incursions into U.S. air defense identification zones near Alaska and close to U.S. territory.
“I will say that the business of them coming close to the United States of America, we take very seriously,” said the four-star admiral who is in charge of U.S. nuclear warfighting forces.
The blunt comments about Chinese weaponization of space are unusual and followed the July 23 test of what U.S. officials said was China’s low-earth orbit DN-1 anti-satellite interceptor. It was the latest ASAT test by China that both Pentagon and State Department spokesmen described as a “non-destructive” prototype.
China, for its part, did not identify the July 23 test as an ASAT weapon. Instead, China said it involved a missile defense system. The Chinese Defense Ministry dubbed the test “a land-based anti-missile technology experiment.”
Frank Rose, deputy assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, said during the conference that the recent Chinese ASAT missile was “designed to destroy satellites in low-earth orbit.”
“Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT test, let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” he said.
“As a country we depend on space, and the nations around the world, not just the United States, also have a significant dependency on that capability,” Haney said. “Militarily, and how we fight, clearly we depend on that capability as well. But we would want, quite frankly, to maintain space as a peaceful environment.”
Haney said China’s 2007 ASAT test that destroyed a weather satellite “created an ungodly amount of debris” that still threatens both manned and unmanned spacecraft.
China’s development of space warfare systems also includes ground-based lasers and small maneuvering satellites. Both also have been tested in recent years.
The ASAT weapons are part of Beijing’s large-scale military buildup that includes numerous weapons systems that provide asymmetric strategic advantages designed to give China’s military the capability to defeat stronger U.S. forces in conflict. Other niche weapons include anti-ship ballistic missiles and cyber warfare capabilities.
China’s ASAT weapons remain shrouded in secrecy. A Chinese defense research paper published in 2012 states that “kinetic energy antisatellite refers to the mode of attack in which a non-explosive high-speed warhead directly hits a satellite with great energy, to damage the functions of the satellite or incapacitate it.”
A kinetic kill vehicle must “arrive at a certain location at a certain time to accomplish a precise rendezvous with the target satellite in space,” the paper stated. “In order to accomplish the precision rendezvous and destroy the target satellite, there must be a precise attack chain centered on discovery, lock-on, tracking, aiming, attack, and damage assessment.”
“China has two ground-based ASAT systems, the DN-1 and DN-2, advanced ground based laser ASAT systems and is developing dual-use co-orbital satellites that can monitor or attack U.S. satellites,” said Fisher, an analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
“Washington cannot wait for China to agree to any future verifiable space weapon control agreement and the likelihood is very high that any diplomatic exercise will be used to buy time for China’s space weapon development,” Fisher said. “As China develops space weapons we can also be assured that Russia will soon enter this competition.”
Fisher said in response the United States should actively develop military space capabilities to deter Chinese attacks in space.
Full article: Stratcom: China Continuing to Weaponize Space with Latest Anti-Satellite Missile Shot (Washington Free Beacon)