A War-in-Space Race between China and the US?
April 21, 2014
Al Jazeera and Reuters & Hannah Osborne / International Business Times
Advances in high-tech weaponry are raising real fears of a space arms race. China plans to increase its military capabilities in space in reaction to US and other world powers developing astronomical weapons. In a move that conjured up thoughts of Star Trek-like weaponry, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged his air force to beef up its air and space defense capability. State media described the move as a response to the increasing militarization of space by the US and other world powers.
China's President Sets
Space Defense Policy to Stun
Al Jazeera and Reuters
(April 16, 2014) -- In a move that promptly conjured up thoughts of Star Trek-like weaponry, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged his air force this week to beef up its air and space defense capability.
State media described the move as a response to the increasing militarization of space by the United States and other world powers.
Visions of sci-fi movies aside, experts warn of a very real threat. Advances in high-tech weaponry are raising concerns of a new space arms race.
Beijing insists its space program is for peaceful purposes. However, a Pentagon report last year highlighted China's increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.
Fears of a space arms race with the United States and other powers mounted after China blew up one of its own weather satellites with a ground-based missile in January 2007.
Recent developments have done little to diminish fears in the west.
A detailed analysis of satellite imagery published in March provided additional evidence that a Chinese rocket launch in May 2013, billed as a research mission, was actually a test of a new anti-satellite weapon.
While visiting air force headquarters in Beijing, Xi, who is also head of the military, told officers "to speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities," Xinhua news agency reported late on Monday.
It gave no details of how China expects to do this.
China has to pay more attention to its defensive capabilities in space, state-controlled newspaper China Daily said on Tuesday.
"The idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force, as a host of experts have underscored the importance of space," it said.
Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine in Beijing, said Xi's call for integrated air and space capability is to answer the need of the times.
"The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarization," Wang was quoted as saying.
"Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space."
The US has developed its own futuristic weaponry and is planning to deploy the world’s first-ever combat laser. The Laser Weapon System looks like a small telescope, but its beams are powerful enough to penetrate steel.
The laser is capable of shooting down aircrafts, but unlike the movies, its beam is invisible, it has been reported.
The laser technology is also significantly cheaper than traditional munitions. One zap by the laser is estimated to cost just one dollar. In contrast, a single Tomahawk cruise missile carries a reported price tag of $1.4 million.
China has been increasingly ambitious in developing its space programs for military, commercial and scientific purposes. Xi has said he wants China to establish itself as a space superpower.
But it is still playing catch-up to the United States and Russia, established space superpowers.
China's Jade Rabbit moon rover has been beset by technical difficulties since landing to great domestic fanfare in mid-December. In 2010, China designed a quantum teleportation device that the military could use to send secure messages to satellites.
China Planning 'To Militarise Space'
Against US Anti-Satellite Weapons
/ International Business Times
(April 15, 2014) -- China is planning to increase its military capabilities in space in reaction to US and other world powers developing astronomical weapons. According to the Xinhua news agency, China's president Xi Jinping has told the military to increase its space defense capabilities.
He said officers should "speed up air and space integration and sharpen their offensive and defensive capabilities".
China Daily also noted the country was planning to increase its military presence in space: "The idea of combining air and space capability is not new to the Chinese air force, as a host of experts have underscored the importance of space."
Xi told officers to focus on training that increases combat capabilities, adding they must make sure they can "swiftly and effectively" deal with emergencies. He told them to allocate more resources to a "new-type" of combat force.
While no details have been revealed on how China plans to increase its space defense programmes, previous evidence suggests it has been developing an anti-satellite weapon.
According to Reuters, satellite images published in March 2014 suggested a Chinese rocket launched in 2013 was to test an anti-satellite weapon, and was not a research mission as it had been billed as.
At the time, US Air Force space analyst Brian Weeden said: "If true, this would represent a significant development in China's anti-satellite [ASAT] capabilities.
"No other country has tested a direct ascent ASAT weapon system that has the potential to reach deep space satellites in medium earth orbit, highly elliptical orbit or geostationary orbit."
Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine in Beijing, said the increased militarisation of space was a reaction to other world powers developing similar weapons.
"The United States has paid considerable attention and resources to the integration of capabilities in both air and space, and other powers have also moved progressively toward space militarisation," he told China Daily. "Though China has stated that it sticks to the peaceful use of space, we must make sure that we have the ability to cope with others' operations in space."
What is an anti-satellite weapon and what could it do?
The US first began developing anti-satellite weapons in the 1950s but it currently has no official weapons created from this purpose.
Anti-satellite weapons are designed to disable or destroy the satellites of other countries for strategic military reasons.
Unsurprisingly, there are very few details about what anti-satellite weapons are currently in development or what their capabilities are. However, the US did successfully destroy a malfunctioning spy satellite in 2008 using a RIM0161 Standard Missile 3, an anti-ballistic missile with anti-satellite capabilities.
What countries are developing anti-satellite weapons?
Countries believed to be working on anti-satellite technology include the US, Russia, China, India and Israel.
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