In an interview with the Japanese daily Nikkei, US Space Force Chief John Raymond expressed concern about China’s anti-satellite technologies posing a threat to the US military’s presence in space.
According to an initial report from Nikkei Asia, Raymond warned that security in space will face a “full spectrum of threats” from China, requiring extensive international cooperation.
It’s unclear whether a space conflict will occur, but with China, Russia, and the United States all working on ways to disrupt each other’s satellite networks, it’s only a matter of time before rising tensions force the problem into dialogue, or something else.
During Donald Trump’s administration, relations between the United States and China deteriorated. Under his guidance, the Space Force, the US military’s newest branch, was founded in part to gain space domination, further motivating all world powers to militarise orbit.
Many critics of the new military force, on the other hand, have said that the Space Force suffers from unnecessary bureaucratic bloat and a hazy mandate.
Of course, adversary nations aren’t the only ones who pose a threat to satellites. The growing problem of space junk clogging up Earth’s orbit has turned into a serious problem. Because of the knock-on consequences, taking out a satellite might make things worse.
According to the Nikkei report, Raymond stated that China is developing “anything from reversible jammers of our GPS system — which gives precise navigation and timing […] to jamming of communications satellites. They have missiles that they can use to destroy satellites from the ground. I’m confident that the capabilities they’re building will be put to use in any potential conflict.”
Raymond’s voice carries weight as the first appointee to the Space Force in 2019, a newly constituted sixth branch of the military that is swiftly catching up to other services like the US Navy or Army.
Raymond, referring to China and Russia, said that “great power competition is broader than just competition among forces. It affects all aspects of government. This requires the use of space.”
It’s difficult to deny that satellites play a key role in many of the US military’s movements and strategies, from connecting ships via communications to tracking the launch of enemy missiles or vehicles. Access to space and freedom to manoeuvre in space are [both] incredibly crucial,” Raymond added, echoing this sentiment.
Some officials have criticised the reliance on orbital satellites as a potential vulnerability, arguing that in the event of a clandestine battle with Russia or China, the most important priority for either side would be to wipe out the US satellite network. We cannot emphasise enough how debilitating this may be for the country’s ability to combat in the twenty-first century. And this is why, in Raymond’s opinion, China is especially worrying.