U.S. military satellites in crisis as foreign weapons advance and proliferate

(Associated Press/File)

(Associated Press/File)


The U.S. military’s satellite communications are facing a crisis, threatened by a growing array of foreign weapons, including cyberattack capabilities, lasers, electronic jammers and anti-satellite weapons, according to a Pentagon study.

An executive summary of the report by the Defense Science Board warns that military satellite communications used for global operations “will be contested by a myriad of effects ranging from reversible to destructive.”

“The estimated and projected electronic threats against satellite communication (satcom) have rapidly escalated in the last few years and will continue to increase in the foreseeable future,” the report says.

“Advances and proliferation in advanced electronic warfare (EW), kinetic, space, and cyber capabilities threaten our ability to maintain information superiority,” the study notes, adding that “under severe stress situations, jamming can render all commercial satcom and most defense Satcom inoperable.”

“This reality should be considered a crisis to be dealt with immediately,” the summary warns.

Satellite communications network operations in conflict or crisis situations “can be spotty to non-existent,” the report said. In addition to vulnerabilities to attack and disruption, current ground control stations used to relay communications are limited to “a few tens of users” and lack anti-jamming capabilities.

The report called for increased connections and protection to handle increased traffic.

The report comes as China and Russia are developing advanced electronic warfare capabilities designed to disrupt U.S. military communications, currently a major strategic advantage, during a conflict.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a major military restructuring in April and said the reforms would include a greater focus on electronic warfare to transform the People’s Liberation Army into an “indestructible combat force” by 2020, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Also in April, Russia’s Vesti online news portal reported that Russia’s Electronic Warfare troops were preparing to attack and disable U.S. weapons systems “without firing a shot.”

“Our REW troops can detect and neutralize any target from a ship’s system and a radar, to a satellite,” the report said.

During congressional testimony earlier this month, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said China and Russia are boosting space warfare capabilities.

“We assess that Russia and China perceive a need to offset any U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems and are increasingly considering attacks against satellite systems as part of their future warfare doctrine,” Mr. Coats told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. “Both will continue to pursue a full range of anti-satellite weapons as a means to reduce U.S. military effectiveness,” he added, noting China’s creation in late 2015 of the PLA Strategic Support Force for military space and cyberspace programs.

Russia and China are developing weapons to challenge the U.S. at the same time they are promoting the non-weaponization of space and a policy calling for no-first-placement of arms in space, Mr. Coats said.

Full article: U.S. military satellites in crisis as foreign weapons advance and proliferate (The Washington Times)

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