The Pentagon has released a new report warning of Chinese and Russian threats to American satellites, saying that the two countries are developing capabilities, including lasers, to threaten the U.S.’ preeminent position.
“China and Russia, in particular, are developing a variety of means to exploit perceived U.S. reliance on space-based systems and challenge the U.S. position in space,” the Defense Intelligence Agency report said.
The “Challenges to Security in Space” report examining Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean space capabilities was published on Monday amid efforts by the Chinese government to boost its space program.
For that reason, the Trump administration has insisted that creating a Space Force was absolutely necessary, pointing to the growth of China’s space capabilities and the need to protect U.S. satellites against foreign threats as arguments for doing so.
CNN writes that American satellites play a critical role in everything from navigation, weapons targeting and intelligence gathering as well as in detecting enemy missile launches.
China’s Foreign Ministry has not yet responded to the Pentagon report, which details a number of Russian and Chinese anti-satellite weapons, including electronic warfare systems and directed-energy weapons.
“China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by 2020, and by the mid-to-late 2020s, it may field higher power systems that extend the threat to the structures of non-optical satellites,” the report says, adding that China has likely already developed some capability to use laser systems against satellite sensors.
The report also says that Russia is likewise working on an “airborne (anti-satellite) laser weapon system to use against space-based missile defense sensors.”
It further warns that China also has an operational missile capable of hitting satellites in low-Earth orbit while Russia is currently developing one and that its system will likely become operational within a matter of years.