China and Russia are developing weapons capable of attacking U.S. satellites, according to a new report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The report also found a massive increase in Chinese and Russian space assets over the past several years.
“Space is being increasingly militarized,” the report (pdf) states. “Some nations have developed, tested, and deployed various satellites and some counterspace weapons.”
The report, titled “2022 Challenges to Security in Space,” found that the combined in-orbit space fleets of China and Russia grew by more than 70 percent in the period from 2019 to 2021. That growth, it said, was driven largely by a desire by the two regimes to “exploit” U.S. technological reliance on space-based infrastructure.
“As more nations and more services depend on space-based capabilities, especially in critical social and economic sectors, such as medical, disaster response, weather forecasting, and financial transactions, the loss or degradation of those capabilities will increasingly disrupt daily life,” the report says.
“Space asset disruption will probably lead to degradation of critical military and intelligence capabilities.”
Command of space is considered vital to winning a modern war between major powers, the report says, because innumerable systems, from GPS to missile warning technologies, rely upon satellites to effectively operate.
For that reason, U.S. space infrastructure is already the target of Chinese and Russian military and intelligence operations.
Space Force Gen. David Thompson said in November that China and Russia have been conducting reversible cyber and electronic attacks on U.S. space infrastructure “every single day.”
Likewise, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testified in March that the cooperation between China and Russia against the United States would only grow in the coming years.
“The loss of space-based communication and navigation services could have a devastating impact on warfighters during a conflict,” DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said in a statement marking the release of the report.
“That’s one of the most serious scenarios anticipated. A secure, stable and accessible space domain is crucial as China and Russia’s space-based capabilities and electronic-warfare activities continue to grow.”
The report comes amid a concerted effort by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to develop a comprehensive arsenal of space and counterspace capabilities. The regime is currently seeking to maintain its status as the world’s leader in the number of annual space launches, and CCP white papers have outlined the regime’s ambition to become the world’s preeminent space power.
To that end, the report noted that the CCP has worked to develop anti-satellite and hypersonic weapons to overwhelm U.S. space assets since at least 2006, and that a Chinese military unit has supported cyberespionage campaigns against U.S. and European satellite and aerospace industries since at least 2007.
Defense and security experts have long warned that the CCP’s space program is a direct military threat to the United States, and that efforts like its plans for a joint moon base with Russia could be used for military operations.
The report highlighted that the entirety of China’s space program is overseen by its military, and that strategic documents within the Chinese military explicitly state that military struggle in space will be of paramount importance in any future conflict.
The report cited the CCP’s 2020 Science of Military Strategy textbook as saying, “Space has already become a new domain of modern military struggle; it is a critical factor for deciding military transformation; and it has an extremely important influence on the evolution of future form-states, modes, and rules of war.”
As such, the report said, efforts by the regimes to undermine or attack U.S. space-based infrastructure were an immediate and long-term threat that would need to be contended with.
“Beijing’s goal is to become a broad-based, fully capable space power,” the report states.
“American efforts to ensure that the space domain remains secure, stable and accessible are under threat.”