WASHINGTON — China and Russia have taken significant steps to challenge U.S. dominance in outer space, placing high importance to being able to counter U.S. systems while holding offensive superiority, the Pentagon said Monday.
“The advantage the United States holds in space — and its perceived dependence on it —will drive actors to improve their abilities to access and operate in and through space,” according to a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency. “These improvements can pose a threat to space-based services across the military, commercial, and civil space sectors. “
The report said the Chinese and Russian militaries started increasing the emphasis on space capabilities in 2015 with the goal to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness.
“Both have developed robust and capable space services, including space-based intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Moreover, they are making improvements to existing systems, including space launch vehicles and satellite navigation constellations,” the report said.
“These capabilities provide their militaries with the ability to command and control their forces worldwide and also with enhanced situational awareness, enabling them to monitor, track, and target U.S. and allied forces,” it said.
Among the areas where both nations have progressed greatly: developing jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based anti-satellite missiles “that can achieve a range of reversible to nonreversible effects,” the report said.
Of additional concern are Iran and North Korea, which the report said have developed jamming capabilities — a potential threat to U.S. equipment and systems.
The DIA did not offer any suggestions on how to respond to its findings.
The report comes as the Pentagon prepares recommendations for a Space Corps or Space Force as part of the fiscal year 2020 budget it will send to Congress in the next few weeks.
The DIA warned that China and Russia have watched — for a quarter of a century — the effectiveness of U.S military operations thanks to space-enhanced capabilities. Those observations showed them U.S. strength as well as possible areas to exploit, and galvanized their space efforts, the report said.
“Space capabilities have become central to many military operations, including missile warning, geolocation and navigation, target identification, and tracking of adversary activities,” the report said.
“The military and intelligence collection capabilities that government and commercial remote sensing satellites provide is reducing the ability of all countries to remain undetected while performing sensitive testing and evaluation activities or military exercises and operations.”