Once seen as science fiction, the concept of space wars is becomingly altogether real. As more and more satellites are launched into space and as countries realize the vulnerability of those satellites, militaries across the globe are preparing for the new frontier of potential space warfare.
In fact, a recently announced plan to reform and upgrade China’s People’s Liberation Army includes the reduction of the country’s military strength by 300,000 troops as well as the creation of a “celestial military” to increase China’s strength and capabilities in space warfare.
The decision to create this new division comes at a time when satellite communication is more essential than ever to modern day warfare.
Specifically, satellites play crucial roles in the United States military’s ability to defend the nation and fight wars, and rival countries - such as China. The military relies on satellites - from communications to GPS to early warning systems. Rick Fisher, senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center proffered that the United States has a fundamental dependence on its satellites, “and these have been targeted systematically by China.”
Just prior to China’s military revamp announcement, top officials at the United States Space Command and the United States Air Force warned of increasing threats from the Chinese regime. Specifically, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond confirmed that China had successfully tested an anti-satellite missile as recently as July 23, 2014. He also declared that, “soon every satellite in every orbit will be able to be held at risk.”
The Pentagon echoes this sentiment by stating in its 2015 annual report to Congress on China’s military and security developments that, “China possesses the most rapidly maturing space program in the world.” This is supported by the fact that China has tested several space weapons while consistently telling the public that it was testing “something else.”
The most notorious of these tests was in early 2007 when China launched a rocket and destroyed one of its own satellites. Today, however, its space weapons have gone far beyond rockets to include directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers.
Dr. Robert J. Bunker, research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College stated that, “China’s development of anti-satellite weapons is both provocative and highly disruptive to international space relations.” He likened China’s focus on space warfare to its focus on cyber warfare. Both “could be utilized against a technologically superior U.S. military.”
The Pentagon’s report states that China’s development of weapons that disable and/or destroy satellites are “inconsistent with China’s public statements about the use of space for peaceful purposes.” In fact, the Pentagon points out that China’s military writings “emphasize the necessity of ‘destroying, damaging, and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance … and communications satellites.’” The Pentagon surmises that China may be targeting navigation and early warning satellites, for programs “designed to ‘blind and deafen the enemy.'”
Rick Fisher, senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center notes that space warfare is the most direct path for China to compete with the United States militarily. Rather than trying to face off against the U.S. Navy and Air Force, China could just build some space planes, specialized missiles and several platforms to send to the moon.