SPECIAL OPERATIONS

JUST IN: Space Commander Warns Chinese Lasers Could Blind U.S. Satellites

9/27/2019
By Mandy Mayfield

Image: iStock

China is developing new directed energy weapons that could degrade American satellites during a future crisis, the leader of the newly formed U.S. Space Command said Sept 27.

“We're pretty comfortable [in asserting] that they are developing directed energy weapons — probably building lasers to blind our satellites,” said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, who is dual-hatted as commander of Spacecom and Air Force Space Command. “They also are developing pretty robust on-orbit capabilities that are very complex that could also have a dual-use purpose.”

“It's clear that China would plan to use those threats against us in conflict," he added.

The spectrum of threats to U.S. assets makes it critical to reorganize the military's space enterprise, Raymond noted during remarks at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

The Pentagon now considers space to be a warfighting domain on par with land, air, sea and cyberspace. In August, President Donald Trump officially reestablished U.S. Space Command and designated it a combatant command focused on space activities.

“The importance of standing up this [new] command and the importance of standing up a space force is to make sure that we can stay ahead of those threats," Raymond said.

Although Spacecom is up and running, Congress has yet to green light the Trump administration's plan to create a separate branch of the military that would be called the United States Space Force.

In additional to pursuing directed energy weapons, China also has other anti-satellite capabilities, which Beijing demonstrated in dramatic fashion in 2007 when it destroyed one of its defunct weather satellites with an ASAT missile. However, the United States is capable of protecting and defending its spacecraft, Raymond said.

“We are the best in the world" when it comes to space operations, he added.

Meanwhile, Spacecom is working with the National Reconnaissance Office to refine operational plans to defend the nation’s assets in the event of conflict with China or another adversarial nation.

“We have come to an agreement with the National Reconnaissance Office and intelligence committee that in times of crisis … we are going to follow a playbook that we are going to develop together,” Raymond said last week during the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “The NRO will take direction from the U.S. Space Command to protect and defend those satellites.”

The NRO, which operates satellites for the intelligence community, and Spacecom have formed a joint command structure to facilitate cooperation.

“We're not in the NRO's chain of command, but we are going to be able to direct activities to be able to protect and defend [space] capabilities,” Raymond said.

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