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China's Military Space Program: A Threat to the United States or a Peaceful Endeavor

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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This paper examines Chinas growing military space program to assess if it is a threat to the national security interests of the United States. There are four possible space doctrines or combinations thereof that China can pursue space sanctuary, survivability, control, andor high-ground dominance. Chinese pursuit of either of the latter two would pose a security threat to the United States. This paper assesses which doctrine China is pursuing based on recent Chinese space activities, Chinese stated space objectives, and the judgments of space experts from the United States, Russia, Japan, and India. The paper concludes that the Chinese are pursing the doctrine of space control, and therefore their program is a threat to the United States. The Chinese consistently claim that their space program is peaceful however they have taken notable actions to weaponize space. Most visible is the 2007 anti-satellite ASAT test that witnessed a Chinese direct-ascent missile successfully intercepting and destroying an aging, Chinese weather satellite. In addition to anti-satellite missiles, the Chinese have also advanced other kinetic and directed-energy e.g., lasers, high-powered microwave, and particle beam weapons technologies for ASAT missions. The United States must be prepared for the Chinese to use these systems against U.S. space assets in a regional conflict. The most likely conflict to arise in the Pacific region would be over Taiwan. The United States should follow four strategies to mitigate Chinas space threat engage in diplomatic talks with China and also with regional U.S. allies, improve intelligence collection and analysis of Chinese space programs, continuously progress the U.S. space industry, and reduce the U.S. militarys reliance on space enablers.

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Technical Report

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DOI: 10.21236/AD1018615



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