Pentagon Reports -China is developing Satellite Killers

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Chinese technology is accelerating into worrying new arenas, warns the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. But that doesn’t mean China is overtaking the US, a leading space expert cautioned, and a panicked over-reaction could drive bad policy.

“Perhaps the most worrying part of the report from a US perspective is the section talking about Chinese counterspace capabilities,” said Brian Weeden, the Secure World Foundation‘s technical advisor. “The tough question is what to do, [and] some of the potential options could make the situation worse instead of better.”

According to Breaking Defense , the report discusses three apparent tests of Chinese anti-satellite systems (ASAT), not just the well-known two. Everyone knows about China’s 2007 test when it destroyed its own defunct satellite, scattering debris that continues to orbit the planet and threaten space assets of every country. A fair number of people know that in 2014, China conducted what the Pentagon called a “successful” test of the same system, albeit without actually destroying a target, to everyone’s relief.

But very few people know that in May 2013, China launched something else: a mysterious object that nearly reached geosynchronous orbit, the ultra-high altitude where crucial communications satellites hang out. Based on its trajectory, the system couldn’t have been intended to launch satellites or traditional research missions. Instead, the Pentagon report says and Weeden’s own analysis confirms, it could have been an anti-satellite system able to reach altitudes three times higher than the weapon tested in 2007 and 2014.

Chinese military doctrine sees counter-space weapons as very important

The methods are many shoot down the communications satellite relaying its data, jam their transmissions, or hack the whole network. The weapons of such warfare include not just missiles but lasers, jamming, and hacking — the latter an area of significant Chinese successes: