China’s recent test of a missile designed to shoot down satellites in low-earth orbit highlights a growing threat of space weapons, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said on Tuesday.
n China’s space weapons buildup, dubbed “counterspace” arms by the Pentagon, Haney said the United States needs to be ready to deal with attacks on satellites in a future conflict.
“The threat in space, I fundamentally believe, is a real one. It’s been demonstrated,” Haney said, noting China’s 2007 anti-satellite missile test against an orbiting satellite that created tens of thousand of debris pieces.
“They’ve repeated this kind of test last summer, and during that test, fortunately, they did not do a hit-to-kill kind of thing,” he said, noting that no further debris was created.
“But just seeing the nature of these types of activities show how committed they are to a counter-space campaign,” Haney said. “So we have to be ready for any campaign that extends its way into space.”
The July 23 test of the anti-satellite missile was identified by defense officials as the DN-1 anti-satellite interceptor missile. China also has a second anti-satellite (ASAT) missile called the DN-2 that was tested in 2013 and is designed to hit satellites in high-earth orbit—the location of intelligence, navigation, and targeting satellites.
China, which is publicly opposing the development of space weapons, did not identify the test as an anti-satellite missile. Instead, the Defense Ministry described the test as a “land-based anti-missile technology experiment.”
Haney said the July test was similar to the 2007 ASAT test.
“The only difference this time [is that] it did not impact another satellite,” he said. “I’m not convinced that was their intention. But quite frankly, just the whole physics and the demonstration and everything that they did, I’m sure they collected data in order to further make this an operational capability. … This was also a test for capability in low earth orbit.”
Haney was asked what steps the United States is taking in response to the space weapons threat and declined to provide specifics.
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