US Satellites Attacked by China, Russia on Daily Basis
American satellites are being attacked nearly every day by adversaries including China and Russia, said General David Thompson last week at the Halifax International Security Forum in Washington, DC.
“The threats are really growing and expanding every single day. And it’s really an evolution of activity that’s been happening for a long time,” added Thompson, who serves as Vice Chief of Space Operations for the newly-formed military branch known as the US Space Force “We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.”
Strikes against American satellites include radio frequency jammers, lasers, and cyber attacks. These methods are defined as “reversible attacks” becuase they do not cause permanent damage.
In 2019, a Russian satellite got so close to an American “national security satellite” that authorities feared a legitimate offensive action. “It maneuvered threateningly so that they were coming close enough that there was a concern of collision,” explained Thompson. “So clearly, the Russians were sending us a message.”
Of more concern is China, which launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile into low orbit in October.
China is “well ahead” of Russia and is “fielding operational systems at an incredible rate,” warned Thompson. The regime is launching satellites at nearly twice the rate of the US and will soon exceed our total orbital output.
China is also working on ground-based systems that are designed to target communications satellites and offensive satellites that can attack other satellites using grappling hooks, energy weapons, small projectiles, and chemical sprays. It is not hyperbole to assume that China will soon be able to (or already can) watch over any part of the globe.
“We are still the best in the world, clearly in terms of capability,” assures Thompson. “[But] they’re catching up quickly…We should be concerned by the end of this decade if we don’t adapt.”
Thompson added that he could neither confirm nor deny if there had been any serious attacks against US military satellites, but recommended launching a series of low-cost satellites into orbit to protect American assets.
White House leaders have reached out to China to negotiate international rules for space, but China doesn’t seem interested.
Author’s Note: The knowledge that attacks against US satellites are occurring every day highlights China’s rapidly-developing satellite and anti-satellite capabilities and supports warnings from Air Force officials. People like to joke about the Space Force, but the agency was established for this very reason. Like AI and gene editing, the so-called space race is something the US could easily lose to China if it doesn’t act now.