In a startling report generated last month, DoD announced that China is making considerable advances in anti-satellite (ASAT) technology, as well as armed drones and other weapons systems.
In a recent interview with Breaking Defense, Secure World Foundation’s technical advisor Brian Weeden noted that “perhaps the most worrying part of the report from a US perspective is the section talking about Chinese counter-space capabilities. The tough question is what to do…some of the potential options could make the situation worse instead of better.”
However, this sentiment does jibe with statements made by top-echelon People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) General, Xu Qiliang. In a 2009 interview with the PLA Daily, Xu remarked that “as far as the revolution in military affairs is concerned, the competition between military forces is moving towards outer space. This is a historical inevitability and a development that cannot be turned back.” Although he was forced to retract his statements by none other than then-President Hu Jintao himself, the aggressive expansion and posturing has US and allied Pacific leaders concerned. Just last year, a PLA think-tank submitted a report thinly veiling Western advancements as “critical threats to China’s space security”.
Following a year-old remark, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer has stated that while China is preeminent in the field of militarized space but has yet to protect or build redundancy into crucial space systems. Thus the capabilities grow more vulnerable with time. With Russia and China being complimented on being “reasonably successful” with stealing US data concerning space systems, the vulnerability of America’s space/electronic warfare spectrum has many at the Pentagon on edge.
Although there is a seemingly cause for alarm, Weeden feels that “technological development often follows an S-curve, where there is an initial slow rate of growth followed by a middle period of rapid advancement and then a slow tapering off as it gets tougher and tougher. So it should come as no surprise that China’s space program is developing rapidly as it moves through that middle portion of the curve. That does not mean that China’s space capabilities will equal or surpass that of America’s anytime soon. The US still has a decades-long lead in refining and honing its capabilities to a degree that China cannot match”.