‘I’m not NASA,’ space commander says (UPDATED)
China’s growing space warfare capabilities are prompting the Air Force to develop military space weapons to protect U.S. satellites and shoot down enemy systems, the commander of the Air Force Space Command said in an interview that aired on Sunday.
“It’s a competition I wish wasn’t occurring, but it is,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the space commander, told CBS News.
“And if we’re threatened in space, we have the right of self defense and we’ll make sure we can execute that right.”
Asked if those defenses will involve military force, Hyten states: “That’s why we have a military … I’m not NASA.”
Hyten said some U.S. military satellites can maneuver to avoid attack but older ones cannot. “It depends on the satellite … when it was built … how old it is … when we know the threat is coming.”
The program reports that the United States has tested anti-satellite weapons in the past and spends an estimated 10 times more on space than the Chinese. The military space budget is around $25 billion annually, including spy satellites and secret programs, CBS reported.
Hyten’s complete remarks on the Chinese space threat and the U.S. response were aired Sunday on 60 Minutes.
Hyten said China’s 2007 test of an anti-satellite missile that destroyed an orbiting weather satellite created some 3,000 pieces of dangerous orbiting debris.
“It was a significant wakeup call to our entire military,” Hyten said. “Until that singular event, I don’t think the broader military realized that that is something we’re going to have to worry about.”
China is continuing to conduct anti-satellite weapons tests, he added, “to make sure that if they ever got into a conflict with us or any other space-faring nation, they would have the ability to destroy satellites.”
“And that is a bad thing for the United States, a bad thing for the planet,” Hyten said.
Brian Weeden, a former Space Command officer, told 60 Minutes that the Chinese have tested six ground-based anti-satellite weapons since the 2007 test.
Weeden said China conducted a test of a high-earth orbit anti-satellite missile that may have traveled some 18,600 miles into space, threatening strategic geosynchronous orbiting satellites systems.
The test was first reported by the Free Beacon.
“If those satellites are now at risk, that is something that, from the U.S. military’s point of view, is new,” Weeden said. “Because it’s always believed those satellites, there wasn’t really a significant threat to those capabilities.”
Hyten declined to specify how high China’s May 2013 anti-satellite test traveled but said it was “pretty high.”
China is the main worry for space attacks. U.S. officials have said China has tested ground-based missiles capable of attacking and destroying satellites, ground-based lasers that can damage and destroy sensitive optics and electronics on satellites, and small satellites designed to grab or crush orbiting satellites.
Full article: General: China Space Threat Drives U.S. Space Warfare Buildup (Washington Free Beacon)