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U.S. military says space ‘now a warfighting domain’

Anti-satellite weapons are the most likely challenge in the near term

(National SentinelNational Security: While we’re not liable to see any “Star Wars” type action in space anytime soon, the Pentagon said this week that space has nevertheless become the final military frontier.

In joint testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Wednesday, top officials in charge of America’s military space program told lawmakers:

For decades the United States has enjoyed unimpeded freedom of action in space. This benign environment allowed us to operate satellites for intelligence collection, missile warning, weather monitoring, communications, and precision positioning, navigation, and timing in support of all military operations for all of the services, without thinking about how to protect these systems. That environment no longer exists. Space will be contested in any conflict…

Clearly, freedom to operate in space is not guaranteed. In fact, space is now a warfighting domain, similar to the more familiar air, land, and maritime domains our men and women are fighting in today. We must ensure the reliability of our current systems and we must modernize. Our modernization will focus on our ability to deter potential adversaries, and to fight in a contested, degraded, and operationally limited environment should deterrence fail.

One of the most pressing issues is defending space assets like military satellites, which serve as encrypted communications, spy and targeting platforms, among others. Both Russia and China are said to be developing anti-satellite weaponry.

“Our potential adversaries understand the advantage we derive from space and view our reliance on space as a vulnerability they can exploit,” Heather Wilson, secretary of the U.S. Air Force; Gen. David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force; Gen. John Raymond, commander of U.S. Air Force Space Command; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the U.S. Air Force Command’s Space and Missile System Center, noted in their testimony. “Near-peer competitors will offset any U.S. military advantage derived from our space systems and continue to pursue capabilities to degrade or destroy them.

“We assess that Russia and China perceive a need to offset any US military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems and are increasingly considering attacks against satellite systems as part of their future warfare doctrine,” the assessment added. “Both will continue to pursue a full range of anti- satellite (ASAT) weapons as a means to reduce US military effectiveness.”

Such weapons are likely to be perfected in the next few years, noted Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

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