While some still denigrate President Trump’s bold and much-needed decision to create a U.S. Space Force and re-ignite the U.S. focus on the moon and space dominance, China has not been sitting by quietly. From an unprecedented, unmanned, lunar landing on the moon’s dark side, to anti-satellite weapons, to its own independent GPS-type global navigation satellite system, China has been on an aggressive quest to militarize and dominate space.
In a recent post – ‘China’s Space Threat’ – for US Gov Policy, defense and foreign policy analyst, Daria Novak, describes China’s focus on space warfare:
The primary and direct warfighting role of the new space force appears to be the electromagnetic and cyber domains. Its aim is to enable the PLA to not only fight but to win a war pitting China against a technologically advanced nation-state such as Japan or the United States.
She explains how in late December 2015, under President Xi Jinping’s direction, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) announced “a major, five-year military reorganization to integrate the civilian-military infrastructure and to develop a space-based military organization with both offensive and defensive capabilities.”
And Novak says – “China is ahead of schedule.”
As part of this strategic effort, China’s new Strategic Support Force (SSF) – the PLA’s new information warfare arm – is also the primary vehicle for the PLA’s focus on space warfare. The SSF “integrates space as a third level of its military operations. The first two are the traditional forces (Army, Navy, Air Force) and the Rocket Force, writes Novak.
A Jamestown Foundation report notes that “the SSF aspires to be the PLA’s “information umbrella,” integrated throughout the full cycle of land, sea, air, and missile force operations, from start to finish.” Novak notes that – “The SSF encompasses space, cyber, electronic warfare, psychological warfare and is responsible for satellite operations.”
More specifically, the SSF’s new Space Systems Department (SSD) manages the PLA’s space efforts. As the Jamestown Foundation states:
The SSD is responsible for executing the SSF’s space mission. The SSD has consolidated nearly every aspect of China’s military space operations, including space launch, telemetry, tracking, and control (TT&C), satellite communications, space intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and space-related R&D and support. They also appear to have administrative responsibilities for China’s astronauts.
Novak explains that the accelerated “completion of the PLA’s five-year-plan indicates that China’s kinetic-energy, direct-energy, co-orbital, electronic warfare, and cyber weapons programs are mature, fully operational, and mostly integrated into PLA joint operations.”
She adds that thanks to this, “China has increased its long-range precision strike capabilities which allow it [to] operate at a greater distance from its shores.”
Novak also notes that “China is capable of jamming US civilian and, perhaps, military satellite communications and taking down computer networks operating in space and on the ground. One intelligence source reported that China has operational robotic technology that can literally grab a communications satellite in space.”
A still-classified Chinese “high-altitude science mission” in 2013, says Novak, is believed to be “designed to destroy the world’s GPS system.” In conjunction with their own new ‘alternative’ GPS network, this is a critical global threat.
Trump was right to create the U.S. Space Force and reinvigorate the U.S. focus on space. The alternative could allow the Chinese to dominate not just space – but the Earth as well.