China and Russia are now aggressively challenging U.S. primacy in space — potentially threatening satellites used for military communications, targeting and battlefield management.
Russia and China are developing capabilities to disable our satellites.” Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, repeated like a mantra the phrase “Always the predator, never the prey,” in describing how his service views its mission in space. An arms race in space, as dreadful as that sounds, is already underway. And there’s broad agreement among analysts that the vulnerability of U.S. systems to attack is real.
“The threat is quite serious,” says Robert O. Work, who was a deputy defense secretary in the Obama administration. He notes that Russia and China have demonstrated the ability to jam space communications, blind optical sensors with lasers, launch direct-ascent anti-satellite weapons and operate co- orbital anti-satellite weapons.
China’s disclosures about the coming “weaponisation of space” should greatly concern US and allied defence planners. The US may soon have no choice but to change its long-held policy of not deploying arms in space. In 2007, China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed one of its own satellites — a highly provocative demonstration of China’s growing capability to militarise space. Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based system. And it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un has taken a page from the old Soviet playbook by launching two satellites (in 2012 and 2016) that can threaten the US by – in theory, at least – attacking the US with an electromagnetic pulse as part of a surprise assault aimed at crippling the US military. The satellites would allow North Korea to play a cyber-age version of battleship
President Trump’s highest priority is the safety and security of the American people. And while, too often, previous administrations all but neglected the growing security threats emerging in space, president Trump stated clearly and forcefully that space is, in his words, ‘a warfighting domain, just like … land, air and sea.’
For many years, nations from Russia and China to North Korea and Iran have pursued weapons to jam, blind, and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground.