Beijing Goes Boldly into Anti-Satellite Weapons Frontier

Bottom Line: China is aggressively pursuing capabilities such as anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons that could diminish the U.S. military’s reconnaissance, navigation and communications in case of war in the South China Sea or on the Korean Peninsula. But while China’s ASAT capabilities threaten U.S. assets in space, it’s still unclear how they fit into Chinese military doctrine, and how or in what instances they would be deployed. The U.S. also lacks a clear path for reining in the proliferation of these capabilities because of its own reliance on ballistic missile defense systems that are viewed similarly as potential ASAT weapons.

Background: China has spent more than a decade exploring technology for interfering with foreign satellites. Non-kinetic means have included directed energy or cyber capabilities, while kinetic approaches include direct-ascent missiles and co-orbital platforms travelling alongside satellites in orbit. Much of this counter-space research has taken place with dual-use capabilities that provide a level of deniability. That could be hiding Chinese intent to develop ASAT capabilities for deployment during a time of crisis.  

“The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers.” —Sept. 2018, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 62

Access all of The Cipher Brief’s national security-focused expert insight by becoming a Cipher Brief Subscriber+ Member.


Categorized as:Tech/CyberTagged with:

Related Articles