China and Russia are likely building high-powered lasers that can shoot down US satellites, according to a new Pentagon report.
Both countries are developing an arsenal of anti-satellite weaponry including missiles, cyber attacks, and "directed energy weapons," according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
On Monday, the agency released an unclassified report on the security threat to the US's dominance in space. It calls out both China and Russia as two countries with the technological prowess to take down US communication and navigational satellites, which could cause mayhem for businesses and the military.
The threat may sound far-fetched. But not to the Pentagon; the agency's report lays out all the different ways Beijing and Moscow could attack US satellites in order to win future wars.
China, for instance, is attempting to become a "space power" that's focused on exploration and defense, according to the DIA. The agency goes on to claim that the Chinese military is probably attempting to build a laser weapon system that can "disrupt, degrade, or damage," orbital satellites and the sensors they use.
"China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by 2020, and by the mid-to-late 2020s, it may field higher-power systems that extend the threat to the structures of non-optical satellites," the report claims.
Russia is also pursuing satellite-killing lasers, according to the DIA. But the danger isn't simply contained to energy-based attacks. China and Russia are developing satellites that can inspect and repair other satellites in space, which "could also be used to approach another country's satellite and conduct an attack that results in temporary or permanent damage," the DIA warns.
President Trump last year announced plans for a Space Force, a new branch of the US armed forces charged with developing next-generation aerospace military technology and "space warfighting" tactics.
Monday's report doesn't mention how the US might fend off these threats. But it's no secret that we've long had an interest in laser weaponry as well. In recent years, the US military has been testing prototypes on Navy ships and for use on aircraft.
China was quick to dismiss the DIA's report. "What is alarming and concerning is that the US has defined the outer space as combat territory, announcing to build a space troop, frequently conducting outer space military drills," said a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to CNN.
By Michael Kan, PCMagazine.com