Saturday, September 19, 2020

Trump Is Right to Focus on Space – U.S. Cannot Afford Space ‘Pearl Harbor’

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After years of relative complacency, and growing Chinese and Russian threats to space, President Trump created the United States Space Force (USSF) in 2019 as America’s 6th and newest military branch. Its mission – to properly protect sensitive U.S satellites and ensure that the United States controls the strategic space domain.

However, even with a dedicated Space Force, the U.S. faces an uphill battle to regain space dominance. America is no longer the only superpower in space; China and Russia may be close to surpassing U.S. military space capabilities.

President Trump’s bold decision to create the Space Force and strive for U.S. space dominance is extremely welcome, but a concerted, sustained effort will be needed to achieve the goal of regaining American space dominance.

Space expert Brandon J. Weichert, author of “Winning Space: How America Remains A Superpower,” notes in the New York Post that “For the last decade, Beijing and Moscow have both reorganized their militaries — and developed weapons — to wage a space war against the United States. The situation is now so precarious that America could face a Pearl Harbor in space.”

The Chinese and Russian threats to U.S. space assets pose a critical threat to America.

China has already tested various anti-satellite weapons, including one unannounced test in 2007 noted by Weichert that “created the largest [space] debris field in human history.” It has also invested heavily in lasers designed to blind American satellites and even capabilities to “spoof” American GPS satellites, which could cause chaos for U.S. forces in a crisis or war.

Earlier this month, as I have written about, China launched a “reusable” spacecraft (perhaps like the U.S. X37B spaceplane) that released a smaller object that now remains in orbit. This device may be an offensive “space stalker” satellite designed to covertly tail American satellites and “push them from their orbits.”

Russian space warfare capabilities are very similar to the Chinese. In July, the U.S. and U.K. accused Russia of illegally testing a ‘space stalker’ weapon in orbit. As Weichert explains in the Post:

Beijing or Moscow could use their technological might to rewrite the geopolitical order in their favor. US forces patrolling the South China Sea, for example, could find themselves under attack from China but unable to call for reinforcements or coordinate a viable defense — simply because their critical satellites have been destroyed before the siege began.

Similarly, Russia could disable NATO forces charged with defending an Eastern European state — simply by nudging US satellites out of orbit.

While some still mock the Space Force, and even the Air Force resists championing the new service out of bureaucratic rivalry, pettiness, and fear of losing funding, the U.S. Space Force must get all the support it needs to fulfill its mission.

Trump is right to focus on space, the U.S. cannot afford a ‘Pearl Harbor’ in this critical domain.

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Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo
Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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