Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Superpowers Prepare For War In Space

Superpowers Prepare For War In Space

News Image By PNW Staff December 13, 2016 Share this article:

From the time mankind first soared into space, the resulting race has largely been peaceful, but that has begun to change. 

The International Space Station is an incredible symbol of international cooperation and rival nations routinely share knowledge, resources, launch sites and even space crews. 

But at the same time the thousands of critical satellites orbiting the Earth that allow for long range communications, surveillance and navigation present an extremely inviting target for a nation at war.

Much of the technological advantage enjoyed by the United States and other world powers is owed to the use of satellites. 
Troop movements can be precisely coordinated with GPS, drones can be flown from bunkers on the other side of the globe, battlefield commanders can communicate over vast distances and high-resolution cameras can provide insight into enemy positions. 

Just as important, the network of communications satellites allows for civilian communications, data transfer and economic coordination.

Clearly, any nation that can destroy its opponent's satellites gains a considerable advantage, and that is exactly what Russia and China are now preparing to do.

Russia is reported to have launched an orbital kinetic kill vehicle, a sort of kamikaze satellite, known as the Kosmos 2499. 

Already traveling at incredible speeds, the satellite would target American satellites in orbit and obliterate them with a simple collision. 

China has launched its own satellite killer, one equipped with grappling arms, called the Shiyan. Other weapons pulled from the pages of science fiction include lasers and magnets.

The Chinese Shiyan satellite has performed at least one successful capture using its grappling arm, capable of throwing other satellites out of orbit or stripping them of their useful parts.

China also earned condemnation recently for self-destructing several of its own satellites and showering the area with dangerous, high-speed debris.

Russia has also been spotted using what has been dubbed 2014-28E, a rather enigmatic name for a secret military satellite. Launched clandestinely along with three Russian communication satellites, it was at first believed to be simply debris resulting from the launch. 

When the object began to change orbit however, its propulsion capabilities became apparent. Russia has kept quiet about the craft but many believe it to another example of an erstwhile Soviet-era program called Istrebeitel Sputnik, or Satellite Fighter.

These are not proposals or prototypes of what Russia and China could launch, they are offensive satellites already orbiting the Earth with a singular purpose: removing American satellites from above the field of battle. 

The killer satellites orbit at varying altitudes between 100 and 22,000 miles, depending on the altitude of their targets. Though some have likened attacking a satellite to hitting a bullet with another bullet, the capability is now there.

Paul Graziani, the CEO of AGI, a civilian company that tracks satellites, said in response to the news that they, "Would absolutely be shocked if the US military were not on a war footing now based on what we see." The translation: we don't know what offensive capabilities American military satellites may have.
The US Air Force Space Command has 38,000 employees and an annual budget of $8.9 billion and yet as recently as 2015 Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work went on the record to voice his "grave concern" that the US military was not "ready to do space operations in a conflict that extends into space." 

War game simulations would prove him right just months later when US forces were defeated in a mock attack on its satellites.

But that seems to changing now. With a renewed sense of confidence, the Deputy Defense Secretary promised that the US would "strike back" and "knock them out" if attacked in space. 

"From the very beginning, if someone starts going after our space constellation, we're going to go after the capabilities that would prevent them from doing that," Work said in a statement to the media.

A space war fought in orbit to protect critical communications and guidance infrastructure is fundamentally different from other forms of warfare. 

When General William Shelton, formerly the head of US space command, was asked if we had the capability to protect our satellites his answer was clear, "Could we provide active defense of our own satellites? The answer's no," he responded. 

At this point, the only defense would be a reactive counter-attack targeting the enemy's fleet of satellite killers before they could do damage to any of our critical infrastructure.

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