China and Russia seek weapons to destroy US satellites, says Pentagon

China's own fleet of satellites is expanding.
Ameya Paleja

China and Russia are working towards developing weapons to counter U.S. satellites, the Department of Defense said in its new unclassified report, Bloomberg reported. Titled "Challenges to Security in Space, 2022", the report is a follow-up to a similar report that was tabled in 2019.

Although the report provides updates on the changes that have occurred in this short duration, it doesn't contain any intelligence-based information that will be crucial in shaping decisions ahead as the Pentagon prepares to table its budget proposal for 2023. The geopolitical uncertainty caused due to the Russian invasion is also likely to push up military budgets in the coming year. 

Chinese expansion of ISR satellites

The report states that China has significantly expanded the number of its intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites over the years. Between the period of the two reports, China has almost doubled its satellites, taking the number of its operational systems to over 250, second only to the U.S. 

More importantly, the People's Liberation Army of China also controls more than half of the world's ISR systems that could be put into use to track U.S. and allied forces anywhere in the world, including regional flashpoints such as the Korean Peninsula, Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and Taiwan. 

The report also warned of risks to U.S. space operations from the increasing number of space launches, especially those with multiple payloads, and those involved in anti-satellite testing

Laser-based weapons

Citing the U.S. dependence on space as its 'Achilles heel,' as Russian preception, the report went on to state that the former Soviet state was working to deploy laser-based weapons against U.S. satellites within this decade as part of its efforts to counter the U.S. space-based services. 

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It also stated that China was already in possession of ground-based laser systems that could be deployed to damage satellite sensors. Over the next few years, China could field high energy systems that could even threaten its non-optical satellites. 

The contents of the report will also be used to frame the U.S. policy decisions about its space operations in the future. 

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