A Space Force general says US satellites are attacked every day by adversaries in ways that border on ‘acts of war’, and the US will lose a space arms race if it doesn’t. not act.
China and Russia regularly strike US satellites with lasers, radio frequency jammers and cyberattacks, Gen. David Thompson told The Washington Post in an op-ed published Tuesday.
“Threats are really increasing and expanding every day. And it’s really an evolution of the business that’s been happening for a long time,” said General Thompson, vice chief of space operations in the new military branch.
“We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways our space systems can be threatened.”
Thompson revealed a 2019 incident when a Russian satellite flew so close to a US “national security satellite” that authorities thought it might be an offensive. But the spacecraft backed off and tested a projectile, according to the editorial.
“He maneuvered close, he maneuvered dangerously, he maneuvered threateningly so that they got close enough that there was a risk of collision,” he reportedly said. “So clearly, the Russians were sending us a message.”
Despite Russia’s bluster, the Chinese were ‘well ahead’ of their neighbors when it came to ‘commissioning operational systems at an incredible rate’, the general told the Halifax International Security Forum newspaper more early this month.
The conference opened just days after a Russian anti-satellite weapon test destroyed an obsolete Soviet-era satellite, sending debris flying towards the International Space Station.
Several months earlier, China had launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile into low orbit, a move that a Pentagon spokesperson said “would only heighten tensions in the region and beyond.”
Thompson told the newspaper that China is now sending satellites into space at twice the rate of the United States and will soon overtake the country in its orbital exit.
“We are still the best in the world, clearly in terms of ability. They are catching up quickly,” he said. “We should be worried by the end of this decade if we don’t adapt.”
The White House has reportedly reached out to Beijing to negotiate international rules for cyberspace and space as well as nuclear arms control, but Chinese officials have reprimanded the diplomatic effort, according to the editorial – which argued that the United States needed to be more vigilant above the atmosphere.
Deploying many relatively inexpensive satellites around space assets would better position the United States in the event of a space war, Thompson reportedly proposed.
Thompson neither confirmed nor denied whether there had been any serious attacks on US satellites, explaining that such an event would be classified information and he could not discuss it.