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Russian, Chinese lasers threaten US satellites: Pentagon

China Russia pose challenge to US space capabilities Pentagon Image courtesy Reuters
Deanna Wagner | 14 February, 2019, 03:39

A new US intelligence report warns that both China and Russian Federation are investing in weapons that could attack USA satellites and assets in space, and that both nations are now preparing to use space as a battlefield.

Both countries "are developing a variety of means to exploit perceived USA reliance on space-based systems and challenge the US position in space", the report said.

"Both countries have developed robust and capable space services" including space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations.

The report titled, "Challenges to Security in Space", examines Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean space capabilities, CNN reported.

"The use of space has greatly expanded USA military ability to project power globally", a US defense intelligence official said, adding they can do so with fewer troops deployed and therefore less risk to American service members.

'China has long advocated the peaceful use of outer space and opposes militarisation and an arms race in space, ' Hua said, adding that if the USA was serious about space security, then it should work with China to control arms development.

"Both states are developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities and ground-based antisatellite missiles that can achieve a range of reversible to non-reversible effects", said the report.

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"The PLA owns and operates about half of these ISR systems, most of which could support monitoring, tracking and targeting of United States and allied forces worldwide, especially throughout the Indo-Pacific region", it said.

Eight days later, the USA shot down a failed spy satellite with a ballistic missile, something China had done the year before.

Reacting to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Tuesday: "First of all, I want to make it clear that outer space belongs to all mankind".

They have also developed the command and control systems needed to deploy these capabilities as weapons. China and Russian Federation are developing satellites that can inspect and fix other satellites in space, which "could also be used to approach another country's satellite and conduct an attack that results in temporary or permanent damage", the DIA warns.

"The number of satellites and debris on orbit will grow concurrently, making tracking satellites, discriminating threats from non-threats, and predicting and preventing collisions a greater challenge", it said.

Of about 21,000 large objects in space measuring at least four inches, about 1,800 are active satellites, according to the defense agency. "Additionally, there is a wave of exciting commercial technologies and investments in space that are expanding the potential opportunities, the benefits we can all enjoy". The application on a hand-held device that gives directions, calls rideshare auto or locates a lost package is enabled by the Global Positioning System constellation operated by the U.S. Air Force.