by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
China has launched dozens of satellites in the past six months and the People’s Liberation Army now has 347 orbiting craft that can gather intelligence on American armed forces, according to the head of the U.S. Space Force.
Gen. Chance Saltzman told senators that Beijing was the “most immediate threat” to U.S. operations as it develops lasers to disrupt satellite sensors, electronic warfare jammers and even builds craft that could grab and move rival orbiting platforms out of position.
It is all part of its plan for a fully modernized, world-class military designed to achieve China’s ‘Space Dream’ of being the most powerful nation in space by 2045, he said.
‘Over the last six months, China conducted 35 launches adding advanced communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) satellites to their orbital architecture,’ he said in a written statement to the Senate Armed Service Subcommittee on Strategic Forces on Tuesday.
‘Of China’s over 700 operational satellites in orbit, 347 are People’s Liberation Army ISR platforms providing optical, radar, and radio-frequency capabilities which track the Joint Force worldwide.’
Senior American generals have repeatedly warned that China’s investment in space technology, including reusable rockets, threatens U.S. supremacy in space.
Chinese officials have even compared the moon and Mars with islands in the South China Sea that Beijing is attempting to claim as its own.
‘Both China and Russia continue to develop, field and deploy a range of weapons aimed at U.S. space capabilities,’ the general said.
‘The spectrum of threats to U.S. space capabilities includes cyber warfare activities, electronic attack platforms, directed energy lasers designed to blind or damage satellite sensors, ground-to-orbit missiles to destroy satellites and space-to-space orbital engagement systems that can attack U.S. satellites in space.’
Saltzman told senators that Beijing — and Moscow — had studied the way U.S. forces were reliant on satellites for a range of war fighting functions.