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The New Space Race: HULK SMASH!

June 13th, 2013 - 9:43 am

Or something like that — from StrategyPage:

Chinese military journals are full of exhortations to “render the enemy deaf and blind” by attacking their space satellites. Yet there is little discussion about how China would do this. That is because China does not want the rest of the world to pay too much attention to Chinese work on jamming satellite signals, damaging satellites with lasers and generally leaving them intact but inoperable rather than destroying them.

China did conduct a very visible “KillSat” test in 2007 that blew one of their old weather satellites apart. This was not good for anyone with satellites in orbit because that particular test created over 3,000 large (very destructive) fragments in orbit. These fragments are under no one’s control and will demolish any satellites they encounter. China has not repeated this test and now it is believed that the 2007 test was more of a deception than demonstration. China wants the world to ignore their more intense efforts to disable or isolate satellites in orbit rather than blowing them up.

Going for the eyes is one way to end a fight very, very quickly.

The question is this. On the home front, we’d likely lose TV, phone service, weather warnings,some internet, and general chaos, inconvenience, and some deaths. On the fighting front (should there actually be one), our military would lose tons of intel and much of the networking that it uses as a force multiplier.

Would that be enough to knock us out of the fight?

The Japanese thought so at Pearl Harbor, but I don’t think we’re the same people we were in 1941.

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All Comments   (8)
All Comments   (8)
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Why would we lose phone service or internet? Point-to-point data is carried over fibre, and satellites are used for broadcast. (There are exceptions, primarily in areas too rural for traditional infrastructure, but that's the general rule). The only difference the average city-dweller would notice is that they'd have to get their TV off their computer, and their cellphone would be less accurate at pinpointing them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Meh, I'm less than impressed. Most of the satellites you mention, Mr. Green, are in geosynchronous orbit over the US, out of sight from China. To disrupt those China would either need satellite killing ships in the eastern Pacific (3rd Fleet would have something to say about that) or they would need to launch a killer satellite. They might be able to disrupt services to Hawaii, but that would hardly knock us out of the fight.

The technologies mentioned seemed to be targeted primarily at reconnaissance satellites, but we don't use those much for tactical data, and use in a strategic sense would trigger a very bad war. I wouldn't be too concerned about jamming GPS. The system was designed to be resistant to jamming. You can jam it, if you use a powerful enough radio transmitter, but we have plenty of weapons that are designed to home in on powerful radio transmissions.

Killer satellites aren't as big of a threat as some might think. The cost of killing the satellite is essentially the same as the cost for launching a replacement. Who do you think has more resources to play that game, us or China (hint: it isn't China)?

Of course all of this speculation is moot. War between the US and China would not rely on missiles, attack subs or troop formations. It would last about 45 minutes and would result in the deaths of millions of Americans and the complete destruction of Chinese culture.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
China's 2007 test was a ground-based laser -- quite a bit cheaper than a launch.

And killer satellites? Depends. How many time can it kill? If the answer is "more than once," that changes the math.

As to a nuclear war, I'm glad no President of this country -- or China -- would hurl real missiles around with the cavalier attitude you have towards the pretend one.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A ground based laser is only good against the optics of a satellite over the horizon. Nobody has the technology to burn anything through the entire atmosphere.

The physics involved in satellite collisions mean that each kill vehicle is a single-use device. You might get secondary kills from the debris, but that's as likely to be your satellites (or a neutral third party's) as your target's.

There's nothing cavalier in my attitude about nukes. It's the logical culmination of war between two nuclear powers. Any such war will eventually go against one side or the other. As one side begins to lose the pressure to use nukes to change the tide will grow. Likewise, the pressure for the winning side to eliminate their adversary's arsenal before it can be used in such a desperation strike will grow. The only logical course of action is to forgo the whole war bit and attempt to eliminate the enemy's stockpile in a surprise attack. There's no such thing as a limited war, especially between nuclear combatants. That's why no nuclear powers have ever gone to war, and all sides of the Cold War went through supreme contortions to avoid it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, we use satellites for targeting, via GPS. Our weapons are obscenely accurate. Other nations make bombs, but no one delivers then like we do. without that accurate locating, we are not so hot. Our guys are trained to use the current system, and if that is compromised, well, it could get ugly.

Some years back, during a competition to showcase tanks for competition for possible sales of tanks, the French cheated by bringing a jammer to the competition, and jammed our tanks' GPS. It really ruined our performance. It matters.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another thought: when we fought the Japanese, we fought for, kind of, the world's freedom.

Now why do we fight? For the freedom of calling "natural born" politicians instead of foreigners masters? Kowtow is kowtow.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Question: why do the Chinese want to fight us?

Turn us into a police state? Osama has already done that. We see terrorists under the tables, under our beds, under Obama's bus, we can't say a thing without our minders snooping us. We can't get rid of our citizenship without paying an arm and a leg. We are more Chinese than we'd like to think.

Btw, the Chinese make our computers, and most of our electronic devices, there are easier ways to disrupt us.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I was concerned re; the DoD's reliance on satellites for everything. But a few month's ago, I was reading on Strategy Page that the Air Force is putting in place high altitude/endurance drones (Global Hawk) to supplement satellites tactically and in regions. Dunigan also talked about Defense satellites' ability to actively defend themselves on Strategy talk.

There's also that baby space shuttle the Air Force has.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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