- The U.S. launched its first overseas Space Force base Tuesday, highlighting efforts to construct a strong deterrent against aggression from major rivals, especially China.
- Space has become a critical component to warfighting, including both space-based weapons and space-enabled conflict on the ground, U.S. defense leaders and experts say.
- “To defeat Chinese [anti-satellite] systems we must provide both offensive and defensive systems (e.g. missile defense systems)” and build space architecture with “no single points of failure,” Tom DiNanno, an adjunct fellow for national security at the Hudson Institute, explained to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The U.S. launched a Space Force unit in South Korea Tuesday, the latest development in preparations for the possibility of a future war spilling into space, where China is seen as the largest threat.
U.S. leaders and defense officials have shifted their focus to space in recent years, exemplified by the creation of the Space Force three years ago as of Dec. 20 under former President Donald Trump, and highlighted China as the major challenge. China, Russia and other major rivals have demonstrated technological advancements enabling them to take down satellites and conduct war in the space domain, according to media reports, upping pressure on the Pentagon to enhance its own defense capabilities in space.
The latest Pentagon report on China’s rising military power concluded Beijing likely intends space defense architecture to deter and counter any foreign intervention in regional conflict, alluding to expectations the U.S. may intervene if China moves militarily against Taiwan
The Space Force’s inauguration and championing under the Biden administration is the “single most important thing” to consider in how the U.S. is preparing to deter, and possibly fight with, China, Tom DiNanno, an adjunct fellow for national security at the Hudson Institute, told the DCNF.
Space Forces Korea, the force’s first foreign command, is tasked with detecting and tracking incoming missiles and serve as a deterrent to Pyongyang and Beijing against aggression toward the U.S. and its regional allies, according to CNN.
“The hope is that they see we are ready,” Space Forces Korea commander Lt. Col. Joshua McCullion told CNN at the inauguration.
Defense leaders hope expanding the Artemis Accords could deflect hostilities in space and strengthen the need for diplomatic cooperation between the U.S. and China, according to Breaking Defense. The 23-member international agreement, with Nigeria and Rwanda becoming the first African nations to join on Dec. 13, requires signatories to respect norms of civil behavior in space.
Every mission of the Department of Defense (DOD), including intelligence collection and missile defense, now includes space components, America’s first assistant secretary of defense for space policy, the Honorable John F. Plumb, said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Wednesday.
“Over the last 10 years, the threat has evolved significantly,” Plumb said. China and Russia have “aggressively” developed technology that could put U.S. space assets, like satellites, at risk, while China in particular is constructing a space-based defense infrastructure for aiding war on the ground, he added.
“China and Russia present unique asymmetric challenges” with ground-based and orbital anti-satellite weapons, DiNanno explained to the DCNF.
Both Russia and China successfully tested anti-satellite weapons, with a Russian test in 2021 shattering targets into thousands of pieces of debris that could in turn endanger other space assets, Reuters reported.
“To defeat Chinese [anti-satellite] systems we must provide both offensive and defensive systems (e.g. missile defense systems)” and build space architecture with “no single points of failure,” DiNanno said.
The DOD and U.S. intelligence agencies have also demonstrated exceptional levels of cooperation, Plumb said.
While China and the U.S. are preparing to fight in space, efforts to establish secure access to the moon, Mars and mineral-rich asteroids and bring China in line with international norms of behavior persist, according to Breaking Defense. China sent astronauts to a newly-completed space station on Nov. 29, The New York Times reported.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told Nikkei the U.S. is “in a race with China” to send people to the moon.