China is developing sophisticated space capabilities such as "satellite inspection and repair" and debris clean-up - "at least some of which could also function" as weapons against United States satellites, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency in a report published on Monday.
Space-based capabilities are becoming more affordable and are technologically easier to build and deploy, and China and Russian Federation are taking full advantage of this to eat into USA space dominance, officials said.
Last month, the Defense Intelligence Agency released a report about China's military capabilities, warning that the Asian country was making advances in counterspace technology that could threaten USA satellites responsible for communications, reconnaissance, Global Positioning System and early warnings of missile launches.
But unlike many previous assessments, which focused on Russian and Chinese efforts to match or counter USA capabilities, the new DIA report suggests both countries are pursuing a far more aggressive agenda.
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"The People's Liberation Army also sees counterspace operations as a means to deter and counter a possible U.S. intervention during a regional military conflict", the report said, adding that destroying satellites would make it hard for the United States to target precision guided weapons.
Running into more than 40 pages, the report mentions India a few times and describes China and Russian Federation as a major challenger to the US, Iran and North Korea as other space challenges. "The report says Russian Federation and China are also developing 'inspection and servicing" satellites that could also be used to conduct attacks on satellites in orbit. That includes China establishing "a strategic support force to integrate its space, cyberspace and electronic capabilities".
Both countries have also made gains in tracking USA space assets. State, non-state and commercial actors increasingly will have access to information from space.
"Having seen the benefits of space-enabled operations, some foreign governments are developing capabilities that threaten others' ability to use space", DIA officials wrote in the report. The treaty has been ratified by more than 100 countries including the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea.
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"The PLA owns and operates about half of these ISR systems, most of which could support monitoring, tracking and targeting of U.S. and allied forces worldwide, especially throughout the Indo-Pacific region", it said.
"The number of satellites and debris on orbit will grow concurrently, making tracking satellites, discriminating threats from non-threats, and predicting and preventing collisions a greater challenge", it said.
In 2003, China became the third country to achieve independent human space flight with the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft, commanded by astronaut Yang Liwei.
DIA officials spoke to reporters at the Pentagon this morning about the threats facing American dominance in space.
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Space is the enabling domain for many capabilities, from hand-held devices to precision navigation.