Countering the Chinese Threat to Low Earth Orbit Satellites: Building a Defensive Space Strategy
MARINE CORPS COMMAND AND STAFF COLL QUANTICO VA
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To counter the Chinese threat to its low Earth orbit satellites, the United States should adopt a defensive strategy focused on deterrence and recovery. China demonstrated their ability to employ an anti-satellite weapon when it destroyed one of its own weather satellites in 2007. While it does not publish a public national military strategy, several Chinese military authors advocate the use of anti-satellite technologies as an asymmetric weapon to counter the superior conventional capabilities of the United States. Towards this aim, China has developed both kinetic and non-kinetic weapons along with associated supporting infrastructure to target United States low Earth orbit satellites. The United States currently has little capability to defend against an attack on its satellites. As an initial step, the Department of Defense established the Operationally Responsive Space program to address emerging threats. The United States should use current, primarily commercial, technologies to increase its Space Situational Awareness, develop flexible and rapid launch platforms, field small satellites, decrease its dependence on space systems, defend against high-altitude nuclear explosions, and execute institutional changes. Done with transparency, these changes should deter China from employing its. anti-satellite weapons. If deterrence fails, these same changes will also enable the United States to rapidly reconstitute its space systems. As a long-term effort to counter the Chinese threat, the United States must work with China to make it an active stakeholder in space activities collateral damage from anti-satellite weapons would then threaten China and deter them from using anti-satellite weapons. These recommendations will also help protect United States satellites from other adversaries, accidents, and natural phenomena.
- Antisatellite Defense Systems
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics