Space is increasingly becoming the new battleground and China is planning to dominate it. The People’s Liberation Army recently released a whitepaper report that outlines its space war plans.
Preparing for space war
The whitepaper identified the United States as the enemy, arguing that China has to strengthen its defenses against American aggression. It accuses the U.S. of provoking and intensifying weapons competition among major nations by increasing defense expenditure, and uses it as an excuse to further Beijing’s military plans for space. In fact, the report lists space warfare as one of the eight Chinese strategic interests. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) will now start focusing on offensive space attack capabilities and tactics.
“In line with the strategic requirements of integrating air and space capabilities as well as coordinating offensive and defensive operations, the PLAAF is accelerating the transition of its tasks from territorial air defense to both offensive and defensive operations, and improving its capabilities for strategic early warning, air strikes, air and missile defense, information countermeasures, airborne operations, strategic projection, and integrated support, so as to build a strong and modernized air force,” the report states.
Plus, a new Space Corps has also been set up that will act as the key space war fighting unit. The aim of China’s space warfare is to destroy and damage enemy reconnaissance and communication satellites. Though the report does not mention any specific space weapons, China is known to have several anti-satellite missiles, like the DN-2 and 3, that can destroy both low and high orbit satellites.
According to Steve Lambakis, a former Pentagon official, one of the main aims of the PLA is to interfere with the operations of the Indo-Pacific Command based in Hawaii. “These operations would likely start with disruption and destruction of [command, control, communications, and intelligence] capabilities with cyber and kinetic attacks on satellites and ground assets in support of other Chinese kinetic capabilities,” he said in a statement (The Washington Free Beacon).
But despite China’s attempts, it still trails far behind the United States in space warfare. The U.S. has been in possession of anti-satellite capabilities since the 1970s. However, one aspect where Beijing has an advantage over Washington is that it has missiles that can attack satellites in distant Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) located at 35,000 km above the planet.
Once these satellites are destroyed, the debris field itself becomes completely unusable. Given that GEO satellites are usually used for critical things like weather observations and missile warnings, Communist China possessing missiles with such destructive capabilities is definitely bad news for the free world. “We have much more to lose in GEO than any other country… We wouldn’t want to have a first strike capability,” Kaitlyn Johnson, an associate fellow who specializes in space security at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said to South China Morning Post.
In February this year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a directive that centralizes all military space operations under a single unit — the U.S. Space Force. To be overseen by the Department of the Air Force, all military personnel currently serving under the various space programs will be brought under the control of the new agency. The purpose of the U.S. Space Force would be to “degrade, deny, disrupt, destroy, and manipulate adversary capabilities.’