US Department of Defense today released a report “Challenges to Security in Space” stating that US must secure, safeguard capabilities in space. The report highlights challenges from China as follows:
China has devoted significant economic and political resources to growing all aspects of its space program, from improving military space applications to developing human spaceflight and lunar exploration programs.
China’s journey toward a space capability began in 1958, less than 9 months after the launch of Sputnik-1. However, China’s aspirations to match the Soviet Union and the United States soon faced self-imposed delays due to internal political dynamics that lasted until the late 1960s. China did not launch its first satellite until April 1970. In the early 1980s, China’s space program began moving with purpose.
Beijing now has a goal of “building China into a space power in all respects”. Its rapidly growing space program-China is second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites-is a source of national pride and part of President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” to establish a powerful and prosperous China.
The space program supports both civil and military interests, including strengthening its science and technology sector, international relationships, and military modernization efforts. China seeks to achieve these goals rapidly through advances in the research and development of space systems and space-related technology.
China officially advocates for peaceful use of space, and it is pursuing agreements at the United Nations on the non-weaponization of space. Nonetheless, China continues to improve its counter-space weapons capabilities and has enacted military reforms to better integrate cyberspace, space, and EW into joint military operations.
China’s Military Strategy
In 2015, Beijing directed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be able to win “informatized local wars” with an emphasis on “maritime military struggle”. Chinese military strategy documents also emphasize the growing importance of offensive air, long-distance mobility, and space and cyberspace operations. China expects that its future wars mostly will be fought outside its borders and will involve conflict in the maritime domain. China promulgated this through its most recent update to its “military strategic guidelines”, the top-level directives that Beijing uses to define concepts, assess threats, and set priorities for planning, force posture, and modernization.
The PLA uses “informatized” warfare to describe the process of acquiring, transmitting, processing, and using information to conduct joint military operations across the domains of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum during a conflict. PLA writings highlight the benefit of near-real-time shared awareness of the battlefield in enabling quick, unified effort to seize tactical opportunities.
Strategy, Doctrine and Internet
The PLA views space superiority, the ability to control the information sphere, and denying adversaries the same as key components of conducting modern “informatized” wars. Since observing the US military performance during the 1991 Gulf War, the PLA embarked on an effort to modernize weapon systems and update doctrine to place the focus on using and countering adversary information-enabled warfare.
Space and counterspace operations will form integral components of PLA campaigns, given China’s perceptions of the importance of space-enabled operations to US and allied forces and the growing importance of space to enable beyond-line-of-sight operations for deployed Chinese forces. The PLA also sees conterspace operations as a means to deter and counter a possible US intervention during a regional military conflict. PLA analysis of US and allied military operations states that “destroying or capturing satellites and other sensors” would make it difficult to use precision guided weapons. Moreover, PLA writings suggest that reconnaissance, communications, navigation, and early warning satellites could be among the targets of attacks designed to “blind and deafen the enemy”.
Space and Counter-space Capabilities
China is improving its space launch capabilities to ensure it has an independent, reliable means to access space and to compete in the international space launch market. Recent improvements reduce launch timelines, increase manufacturing efficiencies, and support human spaceflight and deep-space exploration missions. These improvements include new, modular SLVs that allow China to tailor a SLV to the specific configuration required for each customer. Using modular SLVs can lead to increases in manufacturing efficiency, launch vehicle reliability, and overall cost savings for launch campaigns. China is also in the early stages of developing a super heavy-life SLV similar to the US Saturn-V or the newer Space Launch System to support proposed crewed lunar and Mars exploration missions.
China has developed a “quick response” SLV to increase its attractiveness as a commercial small satellite launch provider and to rapidly reconstitute LEO space capabilities, which could support military operations during a conflict or civilian response to disasters. Compared to medium- and heavy-lift SLVs, these SLVs are capable of expedited launch campaigns because they are transportable via road or rail and can be stored launch-ready for longer periods. Currently, due to their limited size, quick response SLVs such as the KZ-1, LM-6, and LM-11 are only capable of launching relatively small payloads into LEO.
Human Spaceflight and Space Exploration
By 2022, China intends to assemble and operate a permanently inhabited, modular space station that can host Chinese and foreign payloads and astronauts.
Additionally, China announced plans in March 2018 to assemble a robotic research station on the Moon by 2025 and has started establishing the foundation for a human lunar exploration program to put astronauts on the Moon in the mid-2030s.
ISR, Navigation, and Communications Capabilities
China employs a robust space-based ISR capability designed to enhance its worldwide situational awareness. Used for military and civil remote sensing and mapping, terrestrial and maritime surveillance, and military intelligence collection, China’s ISR satellites are capable of providing electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery, as well as electronic intelligence and signals intelligence data.
As of May 2018, the Chinese ISR and remote sensing satellite fleet contains more than 120 systems-a quantity second only to the United States.
The PLA owns and operates about half of these ISR systems, most of which could support monitoring, tracking, and targeting of US and allied forces worldwide, especially throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
China also owns and operates over 30 communications satellites, with 4 dedicated to military use.
China is continuing to improve its indigenous satellite navigation constellation. China offers regional PNT services and achieved initial operating capability of its worldwide, next-generation BeiDou constellation in 2018.
-Space Situational Awareness.
-Directed Energy Weapons.
-Cyber space threats.
-Kinetic Energy threats.
-Other counter-space technology development.