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Chinese anti-satellite strategy

Old 01-23-07, 08:15 PM
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Chinese anti-satellite strategy

I'm starting this thread in response to an email I got from Stratfor, but here's the original article which I'll only link to about China's anti satellite test:

China confirms anti-satellite weapon test, says nothing to fear

Originally Posted by Stratfor email
Space and Sea-Lane Control in Chinese Strategy

By George Friedman

Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, citing U.S. intelligence sources, has reported that China has successfully tested an anti-satellite (ASAT) system. According to the report, which U.S. officials later confirmed, a satellite was launched, intercepted and destroyed a Feng Yun 1C weather satellite, also belonging to China, on Jan. 11. The weather satellite was launched into polar orbit in 1999. The precise means of destruction is not clear, but it appears to have been a kinetic strike (meaning physical intercept, not laser) that broke the satellite into many pieces. The U.S. government wants to reveal as much information as possible about this event in order to show its concern -- and to show the Chinese how closely the Americans are monitoring their actions.

The Jan. 17 magazine report was not the first U.S. intelligence leak about Chinese ASAT capabilities. In August 2006, the usual sources reported China had directed lasers against U.S. satellites. It has become clear that China is in the process of acquiring the technology needed to destroy or blind satellites in at least low-Earth orbit, which is where intelligence-gathering satellites tend to operate.

Two things about this are noteworthy. The first is that China is moving toward a space warfare capability. The second is that it is not the Chinese who are announcing these moves (they maintained official silence until Jan. 23, when they confirmed the ASAT test), but Washington that is aggressively publicizing Chinese actions. These leaks are not accidental: The Bush administration wants it known that China is doing these things, and the Chinese are quite content with that. China is not hiding its efforts, and U.S. officials are using them to create a sense of urgency within the United States about Chinese military capabilities (something that, in budgetary debates in Washington, ultimately benefits the U.S. Air Force).

China has multiple space projects under way, but the one it is currently showcasing -- and on which the United States is focusing -- involves space-denial capabilities. That makes sense, given China's geopolitical position. It does not face a significant land threat: With natural barriers like the Himalayas or the Siberian wastes on its borders, foreign aggression into Chinese territory is unlikely. However, China's ability to project force is equally limited by these barriers. The Chinese have interests in Central Asia, where they might find power projection an enticing consideration, but this inevitably would bring them into conflict with the Russians. China and Russia have an interest in containing the only superpower, the United States, and fighting among themselves would play directly into American hands. Therefore, China will project its power subtly in Central Asia; it will not project overt military force there. Its army is better utilized in guaranteeing China's internal cohesiveness and security than in engaging in warfare.

Geopolitics and Naval Power

Its major geopolitical problem is, instead, maritime power. China -- which published a defense white paper shortly before the ASAT test -- has become a great trading nation, with the bulk of its trade moving by sea. And not only does it export an enormous quantity of goods, but it also increasingly imports raw materials. The sea-lanes on which it depends are all controlled by the U.S. Navy, right up to China's brown water. Additionally, Beijing retains an interest in Taiwan, which it claims as a part of China. But whatever threats China makes against Taiwan ring hollow: The Chinese navy is incapable of forcing its way across the Taiwan Strait, incapable of landing a multidivisional force on Taiwan and, even if it were capable of that, it could not sustain that force over time. That is because the U.S. Navy -- using airpower, missiles, submarines and surface vessels -- could readily cut the lines of supply and communication between China and Taiwan.

The threat to China is the U.S. Navy. If the United States wanted to break China, its means of doing so would be naval interdiction. This would not have to be a close-in interdiction. The Chinese import oil from around the world and ship their goods around the world. U.S. forces could choose to stand off, far out of the range of Chinese missiles -- or reconnaissance platforms that would locate U.S. ships -- and interdict the flow of supplies there, at a chokepoint such as the Strait of Malacca. This strategy would have far-reaching implications, of course: the Malacca Strait is essential not only to China, but also to the United States and the rest of the world. But the point is that the U.S. Navy could interdict China's movement of goods far more readily than China could interdict American movement of goods.

For China, freedom of the seas has become a fundamental national interest. Right now, China's access to the sea-lanes depends on U.S. acquiescence. The United States has shown no interest whatsoever in cutting off that access -- quite the contrary. But China, like any great power, does not want its national security held hostage to the goodwill of another power -- particularly not one it regards as unpredictable and as having interests quite different from its own. To put it simply, the United States currently dominates the world's oceans. This is a source of enormous power, and the United States will not give up that domination voluntarily. China, for its part, cannot live with that state of affairs indefinitely. China may not be able to control the sea itself, but it cannot live forever with U.S. control. Therefore, it requires a sea-lane-denial strategy.

Quite naturally, China has placed increased emphasis on naval development. But the construction of a traditional navy -- consisting of aircraft carriers, nuclear attack submarines and blue-water surface systems, which are capable of operating over great distances -- is not only enormously expensive, but also will take decades to construct. It is not just a matter of shipbuilding. It is also a matter of training and maturing a generation of naval officers, developing viable naval tactics and doctrine, and leapfrogging generations of technology -- all while trying to surpass a United States that already has done all of these things. Pursuing a conventional naval strategy will not provide a strategic solution for China within a reasonable timeframe. The United States behaves in unexpected ways, from the Chinese point of view, and the Chinese will need a solution within five years -- or certainly within a decade.

They cannot launch a competitive, traditional navy in that period of time. However, the U.S. Navy has a general dependency on -- and, therefore, a vulnerability related to -- space-based systems. Within the U.S. military, this is not unique to the Navy, but given that the Navy operates at vast distances and has sea-lane-control missions -- as well as the mission of launching aircraft and missiles against land-based targets -- it has a particular dependency on space. The service relies on space-based systems for intelligence-gathering, communications, navigation and tactical reconnaissance. This is true not only for naval platforms, but also for everything from cruise missile guidance to general situational awareness.

Take out the space-based systems and the efficiency of the Navy plummets dramatically. Imagine an American carrier strike group moving into interdiction position in the Taiwan Strait without satellite reconnaissance, targeting information for anti-ship missiles, satellite communications for coordination and so on. Certainly, ship-board systems could substitute, but not without creating substantial vulnerabilities -- particularly if Chinese engineers could develop effective jamming systems against them.

If the Chinese were able to combine kinetic ASAT systems for low-Earth orbit, high-energy systems for communications and other systems in geostationary orbit and tools for effectively denying the electromagnetic spectrum to the United States, they would have moved a long way toward challenging U.S. dominance of space and limiting the Navy's ability to deny sea-lanes to Chinese ships. From the Chinese point of view, the denial of space to the United States would undermine American denial of the seas to China.

Conjecture and Core Interests

There has been some discussion -- fueled by Chinese leaks -- that the real purpose of the Chinese ASAT launch was to prompt the Americans to think about an anti-ASAT treaty. This is not a persuasive argument because such a treaty would freeze in place the current status quo, and that status quo is not in the Chinese national interest.

For one thing, a treaty banning ASAT systems would leave the Chinese without an effective means of limiting American naval power. It would mean China would have to spend a fortune on a traditional navy and wait at least a generation to have it in place. It would mean ceding the oceans to the United States for a very long time, if not permanently. Second, the United States and Russia already have ASAT systems, and the Chinese undoubtedly assume the Americans have moved aggressively, if secretly, to improve those systems. Treaty or no, the United States and Russia already have the technology for taking out Chinese satellites. China is not going to assume either will actually dismantle systems -- or forget how to build them fast -- merely because of a treaty. The only losers in the event of an anti-ASAT treaty would be the countries that do not have them, particularly China.

The idea that what China really wants is an anti-ASAT treaty is certainly one the Chinese should cultivate. This would buy them time while Americans argue over Chinese intentions, it would make the Chinese look benign and, with some luck, it could undermine U.S. political will in the area of the military utilization of space. Cultivating perceptions that an anti-ASAT treaty is the goal is the perfect diplomatic counterpart to Chinese technological development. But the notion itself does not stand up to scrutiny.

[b]The issue for the United States is not so much denying space to China as ensuring the survivability of its own systems.[b] The United States likely has the ability to neutralize the space-based systems of other countries. The strategic issue, however, is whether it has sufficient robustness and redundancy to survive an attack in space. In other words, do U.S. systems have the ability to maneuver to evade attacks, to shield themselves against lasers, to continue their missions while under attack? Moreover, since satellites will be damaged and lost, does the United States have sufficient reserve satellites to replace those destroyed and launchers to put them in place quickly?

For Washington, the idea of an ASAT treaty is not the issue; the United States would love anything that blocks space capabilities for other nations. Rather, it is about building its own space strategy around the recognition that China and others are working toward denying space to the United States.

All of this is, of course, fiendishly expensive, but it is still a lot cheaper than building new naval fleets. The real problem, however, is not just money, but current military dogma. The U.S. military is now enthralled by the doctrine of asymmetric warfare, in which nonstate actors are more important than states. Forever faithful to the assumption that all wars in the future will look like the one currently being fought, the strategic urgency and intellectual bandwidth needed to prepare for space warfare does not currently exist within the U.S. military. Indeed, an independent U.S. Space Command no longer exists -- having been merged into Strategic Command, which itself is seen as an anachronism.

For the United States, one of the greatest prices of the Iraq war is not simply the ongoing conflict, but also the fact that it makes it impossible for the U.S. military to allocate resources for emerging threats. That always happens in war, but it is particularly troubling in this case because of the intractable nature of the Iraq conflict and the palpable challenge being posed by China in space. This is not a challenge that many -- certainly not those at the highest levels of military leadership -- have time to think about while concerned about the future of a few city blocks in Baghdad; but U.S. leaders might, in 10 years, look back on 2007 and wonder what their predecessors were thinking about.
The whole email is interesting. It's intriguing to think about what's going on behind the scenes and behind the simple reporting of the event. I think it's another example of how Iraq is sucking the air not only out of the military but of our diplomatic position as well. Beyond that, I wonder what would happen if naval ships and aircraft had to go back to navigating via compass when their GPS systems went out. It's certainly an adjustment.
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Old 01-23-07, 08:20 PM
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Exactly what military assets or technology should we be deploying toward China and where should they be deployed? What might the result of that action be?

This incident at least adds to the enormous amount of evidence of how the Chinese really are just like us and only want to be friends.
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Old 01-23-07, 08:20 PM
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could you italics the important bolded parts?
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Old 01-23-07, 08:38 PM
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we just tested a ship based rail gun that in theory can destroy a satellite making every ship in the US Navy an ASAT weapon
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Old 01-23-07, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by al_bundy
we just tested a ship based rail gun that in theory can destroy a satellite making every ship in the US Navy an ASAT weapon

Shh... It's okay for the U.S. to test these sorts of weapons. Just not other countries.
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Old 01-23-07, 09:39 PM
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Troy McLure: "Hi. Iraq is a loss. We need a new Cold War country. And China is the right one for the job, baby!"
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Old 01-23-07, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Nutter
Shh... It's okay for the U.S. to test these sorts of weapons. Just not other countries.
Really? Have we destroyed a satellite and turned it into space junk that threatens other objects at that altitude?
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Old 01-23-07, 10:21 PM
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I seriously doubt anyone on this forum can answer that.

And I doubt the US would come forward and say, "Oh yeah, we shot down a few Chinese satellites and endangered a few other orbiting thingies."

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Old 01-23-07, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by X
Really? Have we destroyed a satellite and turned it into space junk that threatens other objects at that altitude?
Well, that brings up an interesting question. Do we have the right to have a satellite in their air space and thus be in place to BE threatened by another object?

Which is all besides the point anyhow. We have dozens maybe hundreds of satellites up there, which makes the likelihood of any collision extraordinarily unlikely. But I'm willing to be proven wrong. Show me the surface area or volume of atmosphere that our satellites occupy, and show me how much area the debris covers. Just because someone SAYS it's a threat doesn't mean it realistically is. Can we say WMD's, anyone?

Oh, and BTW, in 1985, we knocked out our own weather satellite in a test. Did we receive permission from someone? Was their a huge international outcry protesting our actions? We've had two exploding Space Shuttles - how much debris did that produce?

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Old 01-23-07, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
could you italics the important bolded parts?
You know, if I wasn't the thread starter, I probably wouldn't read it either (yes, I'm a lazy bastard a lot of times). Truth is, I enjoy their emails. I think they're insightful. I also thought I'd <s>torture you</s> share them with you all because you all enjoy a good read.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:31 PM
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i remember years ago when there was something like 20,000 pieces of space junk out there people were predicting collisions.

US has a policy of protecting Taiwan and containing China. China sees it as a threat. US relies on satellites. Common sense for Chineese to develop weapons to destroy them just in case we go to war in the future.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
Well, that brings up an interesting question. Do we have the right to have a satellite in their air space and thus be in place to BE threatened by another object?

No one owns space. So you can't have a satellite in Chinese "space".




Originally Posted by hahn
Was their a huge international outcry protesting our actions? Maybe I missed it.
.
Is there huge international outcry about this? 5 min on the news and that's it.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
Well, that brings up an interesting question. Do we have the right to have a satellite in their air space and thus be in place to BE threatened by another object?
I don't know who has a right to space (I'd hope everybody has a right), but it's an important enough resource to fight over like any other resource, so unfortunately it looks like it will be the next battleground in the 21st century. Hopefully, we'll adapt faster than those who wish us harm.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopower
No one owns space. So you can't have a satellite in Chinese "space".
So you're saying we wouldn't feel threatened or take action then if other countries had surveillance equipped satellites above the U.S.? I'm not saying they own it by any legal sense, but it's the area above their country. We don't really "own" the oceans and yet, if someone parked their sub or battleship 10 miles off the coast of California, are you saying we would just shrug our shoulders?

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Old 01-23-07, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
Oh, and BTW, in 1985, we knocked out our own weather satellite in a test. Did we receive permission from someone? Was their a huge international outcry protesting our actions? We've had two exploding Space Shuttles - how much debris did that produce?
I love Google "experts".

In its own test, the U.S. military knocked a satellite out of orbit in 1985.

http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:...s&ct=clnk&cd=4
So do you have an answer about the debris resulting from our test and how much it threatened other objects, such as the International Space Station?
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Old 01-23-07, 10:38 PM
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Well, it's just another small step for China. I've been rattling the "Lookout For China" party rattler for years. Nothing much you can do because US businesses have such a locked cooperation with them, they just don't care at the moment. If anything, I would suggest your children learn Chinese, not French. Not Spanish. Not |33k.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:39 PM
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I would think that debris from a low orbit satellite would not effect something like ISS. The Space Station is in a higher orbit, no?
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Old 01-23-07, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
So you're saying we wouldn't feel threatened or take action then if other countries had surveillance equipped satellites above the U.S.?
So should the US bomb Google headquarters?
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Old 01-23-07, 10:40 PM
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Originally Posted by x
I love Google "experts".
The 1985 satellite being knocked out was cited in quite a few articles about this event.

Originally Posted by X
So do you have an answer about the debris resulting from our test and how much it threatened other objects, such as the International Space Station?
I don't have to have an answer. You're the one who believes there is a significant threat, therefore I'm asking you to support that belief with actual facts. What IS the actual threat? Hell, I'll even take a hypothesized figure. 50% chance? 10%? 0.00001%?

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Old 01-23-07, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
So you're saying we wouldn't feel threatened or take action then if other countries had surveillance equipped satellites above the U.S.? I'm not saying they own it by any legal sense, but it's the area above their country. We don't really "own" the oceans and yet, if someone parked their sub or battleship 10 miles off the coast of California, are you saying we would just shrug our shoulders?
there are treaties dealing with exclusion zones and territorial claims of oceans and airspace. nothing like that for space since we still have spy satellites and it makes sense for other countries to have a space capability as well
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Old 01-23-07, 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
I would think that debris from a low orbit satellite would not effect something like ISS. The Space Station is in a higher orbit, no?
I read that that was a concern due to this test but I don't know whether it's a concern to the actual station or "just" to humans having to travel between earth and the ISS.

But I'll spend a few minutes on Google so I can become an expert.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopower
So should the US bomb Google headquarters?
Last I checked, Google is a US company. Also, Google Maps doesn't show real-time images.
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Old 01-23-07, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
We don't really "own" the oceans and yet, if someone parked their sub or battleship 10 miles off the coast of California, are you saying we would just shrug our shoulders?
I'm pretty sure 10 miles is still US territorial waters so no we wouldn't just "shrug our shoulders".
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Old 01-23-07, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by hahn
I don't have to have an answer. You're the one who believes there is a significant threat, therefore I'm asking you to support that belief with actual facts. What IS the actual threat? Hell, I'll even take a hypothesized figure. 50% chance? 10%? 0.00001%?
Oh, I don't know. Although my Google Ph.D. shows that the US and USSR thought it was enough of a problem that they stopped doing it after the 1985 test.

The United States and the Soviet Union tested anti-satellite technology in the 1980s, and the United States shot down one of its orbiting satellites in 1985. Partially as a result of the debris problem, both sides stopped the programs.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...011801029.html
So it's kind of like above-ground nuclear testing when countries agree that it's harmful but another country decides they want to prove something no matter the consequences to anyone else. Of course there will always be some to defend them in those actions even though their own state department refused to even acknowledge it.
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Old 01-23-07, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopower
I'm pretty sure 10 miles is still US territorial waters so no we wouldn't just "shrug our shoulders".
Let's see...

Which country forced down a plane that was acknowledged as being outside of its territorial airspace within the last five or so years? Of course they immediately apologized and released the plane and its occupants.
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