Francis Harris / The London Telegraph & Associated Press – 2007-01-28 23:17:48
Beijing Secretly Fires Lasers to Disable US Satellites
Francis Harris / The London Telegraph
WASHINGTON (September 27, 2006) — China has secretly fired powerful laser weapons designed to disable American spy satellites by “blinding” their sensitive surveillance devices, it was reported yesterday.
The hitherto unreported attacks have been kept secret by the Bush administration for fear that it would damage attempts to co-opt China in diplomatic offensives against North Korea and Iran.
Sources told the military affairs publication Defense News that there had been a fierce internal battle within Washington over whether to make the attacks public. In the end, the Pentagon’s annual assessment of the growing Chinese military build-up barely mentioned the threat.
“After a contentious debate, the White House directed the Pentagon to limit its concern to one line,” Defense News said.
The document said that China could blind American satellites with a ground-based laser firing a beam of light to prevent spy photography as they pass over China.
According to senior American officials: “China not only has the capability, but has exercised it.” American satellites like the giant Keyhole craft have come under attack “several times” in recent years.
Although the Chinese tests do not aim to destroy American satellites, the laser attacks could make them useless over Chinese territory.
The American military has been so alarmed by the Chinese activity that it has begun test attacks against its own satellites to determine the severity of the threat.
Satellites are especially vulnerable to attack because they have predetermined orbits, allowing an enemy to know where they will appear.
“The Chinese are very strategically minded and are extremely active in this arena. They really believe all the stuff written in the 1980s about the high frontier,” said one senior former Pentagon official.
There has been increasing alarm in parts of the American military establishment over China’s growing military ambitions.
Military experts have already noted that Chinese military expenditure is increasingly designed to challenge American military pre-eminence by investing in weaponry that can attack key systems such as aircraft carriers and satellites.
At the same time, China is engaged in a large-scale espionage effort against American high-tech firms working on projects such as the multibillion-pound DD(X) destroyer programme.
Several spy rings have been cracked and the FBI is increasing the number of counter-intelligence staff tracking the Chinese effort.
Russia Slams US Space Weapon Plans
NEW DELHI – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday criticized US plans for space-based weapons, saying they were the reason behind a recent Chinese anti-satellite weapons test.
Asked about the Chinese test at a news conference in New Delhi after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Putin avoided directly criticizing the Chinese, saying only that Russia was against putting any weapons in space.
Instead, Putin chose to issue a warning to the U.S. on the dangers of the militarization of space.
“At the same time, I would like to note that China was not the first country to conduct such a test,” Putin said.
Russia’s criticism of the US move comes after the United States and other allies raised concerns over the rising militarization of space after a successful test by China of an anti-satellite weapon.
China confirmed the test on Tuesday, but didn’t provide details. Aviation Week, which first reported the test, said the satellite was hit by a kinetic kill vehicle launched from a ballistic missile.
Analysts said the test represented an indirect threat to U.S. defense systems by raising the possibility that its spy satellites could be shot down. The threat wouldn’t affect the anti-missile system, which relies only on ground-based radar.
The U.S. military has had the capability to shoot down satellites since the 1980s. In October, President Bush signed an order asserting the United States’ right to deny adversaries access to space for hostile purposes.
“The first such test was conducted back in the late 1980s and we also hear it today about the U.S. military circles considering plans of militarization of space. We must not let the genie out of the bottle,” Putin said.
Bush also has pushed an ambitious program of space-based missile defense and the Pentagon is working on missiles, ground lasers and other technology to shoot down satellites.