Pentagon prepares for potential attacks on satellites and other space systems

Pentagon prepares for potential attacks on satellites and other space systems
The Pentagon is creating protocols for potential attacks on satellites and other space systems. (3DSculptor/Getty Images)

The Pentagon is preparing for potential “space wars” in case China, Russia, or other adversaries attack satellites and other space systems.

John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, testified before a House subcommittee Wednesday that the Trump administration is calling for “military and other operations” to respond to any space attacks, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Satellites and other space systems are critical for America’s prosperity, security, and way of life, Rood said.

“And [Defense Department] space capabilities are critical for effective deterrence, defense, and force projection capabilities,” he said during a hearing of the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

Rood continued: “Due to the critical importance of these assets, the national security strategy states, any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital U.S. interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.”

Is this a new development?

Rood’s statement was the first policy announcement of its kind by a senior U.S. official, according to reports. Normally such statements are reserved for strategic nuclear weapons use.

The announcement counters the Obama administration’s policy, which promoted arms control agreements as a way to limit the development of space weapons and conflicts in space, the Free Beacon reported.

Russia and China are reportedly building arms for space conflict in private, while publicly promoting agreements to limit space weapons, the report stated.

The Pentagon is requesting $12.5 billion in funding for fiscal year 2019 to fund the program, Rood said. The money would be used to build a “more resilient defendable space architecture,” according to the report.

The funding request is $1.1 billion more than funding for military space initiatives last year.

It was not revealed what space warfare capabilities are being developed. Additionally, methods for deterring satellite attacks were not revealed. To date, space defense has involved developing ways to identify whether an incident is truly an attack, a malfunction, or the result of a collision with space debris.

Are attacks on satellites a real possibility?

Last year, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board issued a report that stated the possibility of an electronic attack on U.S. satellites to electronic is “a crisis to be dealt with immediately.”

Earlier this year, the Joint Staff intelligence directorate warned earlier that China and Russia will have fully-developed space attack weapons in place by 2020. The weapons could threaten all U.S. satellites in orbit from 100 miles to 1,200 miles in space, the report states.

There are currently about 780 low-earth orbit satellites operated by 43 nations. All of them are vulnerable to electronic or kinetic attacks, officials have warned.