Efforts by Russia and China to develop space technologies are challenging US dominance in the space race and threaten to cripple its galactic security supremacy, a new report by the Pentagon has warned.
Beijing and Moscow are eyeing up several different methods to undermine the United States in space, from ground-based anti-satellite missiles to orbital vessels loaded with lasers capable of destroying other spacecraft, said the report published on Monday.
“Some actors are seeking ways to deny the effectiveness of the United States, having witnessed more than 25 years of US military successes enabled by space capabilities,” the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) study said.
“China and Russia, in particular, are developing a variety of means to exploit perceived US reliance on space-based systems and challenge the US position in space,” it added, citing examples including jamming technology and directed energy weapons.
Describing both countries’ space services as “robust”, the DIA said Russia and China were able to use their apparatuses to “monitor, track, and target US and allied forces”.
Outer space arms race
Responding to the report on Tuesday, China accused the DIA of making “unwarranted and utterly baseless comments”.
“China upholds the peaceful use of outer space and opposes weaponising outer space or an arms race there,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a press conference in the capital, Beijing.
“For many years, China, Russia and other countries have been working hard and trying to reach an international legal instrument to fundamentally prevent the weaponisation of or an arms race in outer space,” she added.
China, Russia and the US are all signatories to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which prohibits its members from stationing weapons of mass destruction in space and only permits use of the moon and other celestial bodies for peaceful purposes.
In 2008, China and Russia presented a proposal to ban the use of weapons in outer space under a new treaty. The US rejected the idea.
Trump pledges ‘space force’
While predominantly focused on Russia and China, the DIA’s report also claimed Iran and North Korea posed a challenge to the US’ space-based systems, citing both countries’ “jamming capabilities” and independent space launch facilities.
Its publication comes just weeks after US President Donald Trump announced that Washington would recognise space was a “new war-fighting domain”, adding his proposed “space force” cosmic military branch would lead the way.
“My upcoming budget will invest in a space-based missile defence layer, it’s new technology and it’s ultimately going to be a very, very big part of our defence and, obviously, of our offence,” Trump said last month.
In December, the US leader signed a memorandum of understanding ordering the Department of Defense to create a new organisational structure within the Pentagon charged with overall control of all military space operations.
Russia has warned Trump’s strategy could unleash a dangerous arms race in space.