China's new radar system is reserved for "friendly countries"
China has a new powerful radar system that can detect enemy satellites and it is offering it to “friendly countries,” according to a report by the South China Morning Post published on Friday. It did not specify which nations it considered friendly.
The SLC-18 active electronically scanned array radar
The radar system is called the SLC-18 active electronically scanned array radar and it has been on display this week at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, in the Guangdong province. It’s being developed by the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC).
“This radar provides relatively economical ground-based monitoring of space targets to serve friendly countries … offering situational awareness capabilities against low-orbiting satellites to balance the battlefield posture,” CETC deputy manager Sun Rui was quoted as saying by state media.
The new system, he said, is particularly equipped to handle constellations of low-orbit surveillance satellites that consist of hundreds of satellites in different orbits, as deployed by the United States.
“Our space surveillance radar can detect satellites from a distance and can identify and categorize them to form a radar database that can help other equipment respond accordingly,” he said. “At the same time it sends data on the satellites to the command center to assist in decision making.”
Placed in the right locations, a collection of SLC-18 radars could monitor all satellites traveling over a certain region and predict the arrival of others, giving commanders on the ground ample time to respond and take appropriate action.
A complex air defense system in place
China already has a complex air defense system that includes anti-stealth radar stations, especially along the South China Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean coasts.
In 2013, Wu Jianqia, lead scientist in the military's anti-stealth radar program, claimed that Chinese radar systems could detect and track American F-22 jets. These type of jets are thought to be the most advanced and potent stealth fighters in the world, flying several hundred kilometers off the Chinese coast.
The Chinese anti-stealth radar uses waves with a frequency of just over 3.3 feet (about a meter). According to Jianqia, these low-frequency waves may contact the massive parts of the stealth aircraft, like its wings or tail, and produce echo signals that are more than 100 times stronger than those of military radar that uses higher frequencies.
The question that comes with this new radar system is whether it will be a threat to the United States. In December of 2021, A top Space Force General said that U.S. satellites in high orbit are under constant attack from China and Russia, and added that China could surpass the U.S. in the space race.
Space Force General David Thompson said that the threats against U.S. satellites are really growing and expanding and it’s really an evolution of activity that’s been happening for a long time. “We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.”
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