Archive for October 13, 2021

Anti Satellite Weapons

Posted in uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 13, 2021 by andelino

China is making major advances in its development of weaponry intended to disable or destroy satellites, according to remarks made last week by the director of the United States Indo-Pacific Command.

China is building an array of weapons with abilities ranging from “dazzling to jamming, to kinetic kill-from-the-ground, from space—all that, they’re on the march,” Rear Adm. Michael Studeman said during an intelligence-security webinar, according to Bloomberg.

The SJ-17 satellite is among the Chinese assets believed to be able to attack satellites in orbit. This satellite is dirigible and equipped with a robotic arm that can be controlled by Chinese operatives on the ground. The Center for Strategic and International Studies noted that it has been observed in recent months engaging in unusual behavior including navigating up to other satellites in orbit and interacting with them.

So far the SJ-17 has approached only other Chinese satellites. But experts say there is little that would stop it from navigating up to those of other nations, and using its arm to seize and then hinder or disable them. James Dickinson, commander of the U.S. Space Command, told a congressional hearing that such satellites “could be used in a future system for grappling other satellites.” He called attention specifically to the SJ-17, saying it could potentially put U.S. satellites out of commission.

China is also developing ground-based laser systems believed to be capable of blinding satellites in orbit. “There is open-source evidence of four or five main sites that house the technology,” Brian Weeden, director of Program Planning for Secure World Foundation, told National Defense. “All of the sites have distinctive large buildings with roofs that slide back,” he said, adding that some of the facilities support adaptive optics for targeting objects.”

Whether from space or the ground, China’s capacity to incapacitate U.S. satellites is “significant” because “the next major war could be decided in the opening minutes of the first day, as each side attempts to disable the enemy’s communication tools,” Nikkei said.

Onlookers may suspect that a fear of “mutually assured destruction” would prevent China from attacking American satellites since the Chinese also have many satellites in orbit that the U.S. could target. But the reality is that America has far more satellites in orbit than China or any other nation, and relies on them to an unmatched degree.

This means the U.S. has far more to lose than China.

“And the answer is… 1,308.” https://t.co/dQslQtWK35 https://t.co/D1C9ORfyO1 pic.twitter.com/h2d5wRQoHk — Statista (@StatistaCharts) July 15, 2020

The U.S. depends on its 1,308 satellites for everything from weather monitoring and television broadcasting to telephone and Internet technologies. There is also the Global Positioning System, a constellation of 33 satellites that Washington makes freely accessible to anyone on the planet with a GPS receiver.

This $12 billion feat of engineering provides users with all manner of positioning, navigation and timing services. Most importantly, around 130 of America’s satellites are used exclusively by the U.S. military for reconnaissance, communication, navigation and targeting systems.

This means America is considerably more vulnerable to satellite attacks than any other nation. Frank Rose, co-director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Security, Strategy and Technology, spoke about this vulnerability to National Defense last week. “Adversarial nations are developing anti-satellite weapons because they believe space represents an asymmetric vulnerability of the United States,” he said. “I expect that Russia and China will continue to develop and deploy a full range of ASAT [anti-satellite] capabilities.”

Steve Lambakis, an international affairs analyst, also addressed this threat recently and emphasized America’s military vulnerability. “U.S. space systems are among the most fragile and vulnerable assets operated by the U.S. military,” he said. The multi-billion dollar infrastructure is “vital to nearly every activity of the United States and, increasingly, the armed forces of U.S. allies.”

Much has been written on several occasions about the perils of America’s reliance, specifically its military, on computer technology that is susceptible to enemy attack. Analyst Joe de Courcy, who termed this reliance “the Western world’s Achilles’ heel.” This was a reference to the apparently invulnerable warrior of Greek mythology who was susceptible to harm only on his heels.

“America is the greatest superpower this world has ever known. But we have a very vulnerable point in our military—our own Achilles’ heel. This liability is so dangerous that I am amazed it hasn’t received more publicity.”

This an “alarming” scenario if in the near future U.S. military technology would be hijacked by adversaries. Will it be because of computer terrorists?

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