US afraid of China's space weapons?
China is developing anti-satellite weapons capable of destroying US satellites or considerably impacting their operation, Ashley Tellis, a former US State Department and National Security Council employee, claimed. It could be speculation in order to get seats in Congress as well as the US's serious concern about China's breakthrough in space, Vladimir Dvorkyn, a chief research fellow with IMEMO's Center for International Security, believes.
"The US largely depends on space in terms of providing military equipment for intelligence and control operations and the country's economic needs. Naturally, they get worried when new projects or tests that could threaten their space activities emerge. But China is indeed carrying out such activities, even though I can't say how intensive they are," he says.
China learned how to destroy or seize American spacecrafts both from an orbit and a flight control center on Earth. Konstantin Syvkov, the deputy president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, shares his opinion on the matter:
"It's quite possible because even Iran is capable of intercepting American drones and making them land on its territory. We should consider China as a country which has broken forward from the technological point of view. It still goes a bit behind other countries but this gap will be easily made up for by significant advance which are expected in the years to come," Syvkov adds.
China first tested its anti-satellite weapons on January 11, 2007. Back then, the FY-1C weather satellite, weighing 1-1.5 tones, was struck by an anti-satellite missile in an orbit at 865-kilometer altitude. The missile was launched from a mobile launcher at the Xichang Space Center. Vladimir Yevseyev, the director of the Centre for Social and Political Studies, says:
"China can destroy satellites but only those situated in low Earth orbits. The information on whether it is capable of destroying geostationary satellites hasn't been confirmed yet. Only imagine - it's 36,000 kilometers above Earth," he continues. "In order to destroy something in space a country should have a strike system placed into orbit. Russia and China initiated a convention on prohibition of sending weapons in space. Keeping that in mind, I think, China won't send any weapons into space even though in theory it has such an opportunity," the expert concludes.
Saying this, Yevseyev didn't agree with ex-head of the US Naval Command Robert Butterworth who claimed that the Chinese military seems to be getting ready to a conflict with the US and intending to hit military satellites. At the same time, the Russian expert supports his American colleague in the opinion that the United States are creating cyber-weapons, devices for blocking signals in space and laser arms.
"The work is proceeding but it's not clear at what stage it is now. Is it a research or construction stage? I believe that the final goals haven't been achieved yet but no doubt activities to get there are under way," Yevseyev asserts.
In this respect, General Mayor Vladimir Dvorkyn reminded that a code of behavior in space already exists. It's not mandatory but envisions a ban on targeting certain space objects. And it's necessary to support this trend by passing respective international conventions.