Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Chinese are Working on Laser Weapons

Chinese media have reported that a prototype laser weapon is being tested by the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

An article published on 5 April on the Sina news website contains several screengrabs taken from footage broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) showing a trainable optical device mounted on a mobile chassis with a large main lens.

Commercial satellite images have provided the first photographs of a secret Chinese anti-satellite laser base in western Xinjiang province, along with other high-technology weapons facilities.

The laser facility is located near a lake and is about 145 miles south of the Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

The facility was discovered by retired Indian Army Col. Vinayak Bhat, a satellite imagery analyst who specializes on China.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on April 9 bluntly asserted that China’s PLA is “deploying directed energy (DE) weapons,” adding that “Russia is doing many of the same things.” In perhaps the strongest rhetoric yet from a Trump administration official about counterspace threats to US satellite systems, Shanahan said: “Both China and Russia have weaponized space with the intent to hold American space capabilities at risk.”

Shanahan’s comments about the state of Chinese and Russian DE counterspace weapons development go a step beyond the February-released assessment of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). That characterized both countries as pursuing DE counterspace weapons but stopped short of definitively finding that they had deployed such weapons.

“China likely (emphasis added) is pursuing laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors and possibly already has a limited capability to employ laser systems against satellite sensors,” the DIA said in its first ever assessment of threats to US space assets.

The DIA and Shanahan do agree on the view that China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by next year.

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