Saturday, May 25, 2024

China developing space weapons at ‘breathtaking’ pace

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China is developing anti-satellite weapons as part of a “breathtaking” military expansion, US defence experts have warned.

Gen Stephen Whiting, the head of the US Space Command, said Beijing had “tripled the number of intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance satellites on orbit” in just six years.

“Frankly, the People’s Republic of China is moving at breathtaking speed in space and they are rapidly developing a range of counter-space weapons to hold at risk our space capabilities,” Gen Whiting said.

Counter-space attacks range from disruption of GPS signals or spoofing, to destroying a satellite by detonating a missile in space.

Experts have long warned of Beijing’s misuse of anti-satellite weapons and the need to clean up space from an environmental perspective. Debris still lingers in space from the ballistic missile China fired in 2007 to destroy an orbiting satellite.

China using space ‘to improve lethality’

Gen Whiting added that China had used “space capabilities to improve the lethality, the precision and the range of their terrestrial forces”.

Speaking at the US embassy in London, Col Raj Agrawal, commander of America’s Space Delta 2 force, also warned that China had shown a “clear intent” to project its power through space and stressed the “precision” with which it could strike targets thousands of miles away, beyond the curve of the Earth.

Lt Col Travis Anderson, head of a Space Force intelligence squadron, also said its fleet of 350 satellites had “increased by 300 per cent since 2018”.

“It allows them to look into the Indo-Pacific and find the US and allied forces’ ships,” he said.

Last week, Beijing announced the creation of an information support force within the People’s Liberation Army, which will reform the way cyber, information, logistics and space operations are run.

Gen Whiting said these changes “further enhance the importance of space and information warfare and cyber operations” in China’s military.

‘Serious national security threat’

Beijing has invested billions of dollars into its military-run space programme in an effort to catch up with the United States and Russia.

In February, US intelligence indicated that Russia had a desire to put a nuclear weapon into space, in what was described as a “serious national security threat”.

The intelligence warned the weapon could be used to target Western satellites in space which could disrupt communications and military targeting systems.

Last year, Gen B Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations of the US Space Force, said the danger posed by China’s anti-satellite missile capabilities was one of the biggest challenges it faced.

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