China and Russia are developing space weapons with lasers in a bid to threaten the capabilities of the US’s military space programs, the Pentagon has revealed, at the same time as Russia ramps up its preparations for war.
The defence headquarters’ report Challenges to Security in Space warned the US’ two biggest rivals are “likely” establishing “laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors” in an attempt to “challenge the US position in space”.
US space assets are also being increasingly threatened by Iran and North Korea’s emerging space capabilities, according to the report, published on Tuesday (AEST).
President Donald Trump’s administration has relentlessly been pushing to form a US Space Force, a new military branch, to counter emerging threats in space.
In an effort to prepare for possible war with the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the entire country will be disconnected from the internet some time before April 1, to ensure the country can operate in the event of foreign powers enacting online isolation.
The report says that by 2020, China will have a fully operational ground-based laser weapon system that could quickly defect and defeat space-based sensors.
“By the mid-to-late 2020s, it may field higher power systems that extend the threat to the structures of non-optical satellites,” it further stated.
China may already have the capability, although limited, to “employ laser systems against satellite sensors”.
Russia, last year, developed a new laser weapon for its Aerospace Forces, that was to be focused primarily on an anti-satellite mission.
“Russia is also developing an airborne (anti-satellite) laser weapon system to use against space-based missile defence sensors,” the report says.
Chinese and Russian military doctrines express the view that space is essential to modern warfare and counter-space capabilities are key to countering America’s military advantages.
The report says China and Russia “have developed robust and capable space services” including space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations.
“They [Beijing and Moscow] are developing systems that pose a threat to freedom of action in space,” it stated.
“Both will continue their efforts to enhance their space and counter-space capabilities, and better integrate them into their respective militaries.”