US Air Force Secretary Warns of China’s Military Ambitions in Space

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
September 21, 2021 Updated: September 21, 2021

U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Sept. 20 warned about China’s increasing military threats, including those from space.

“While America is still the dominant military power on the planet today, we are being more effectively challenged militarily than at any other time in our history,” he said during a speech at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, according to the U.S. Air Force.

Kendall became the 26th secretary of the Air Force in July after getting confirmation from the Senate. He replaced John Roth, who was the acting secretary of the Air Force since Jan. 20.

“So what are my intentions now that I have this job? At a breakfast on Capitol Hill shortly after I was sworn in, I was asked by Sen. Jon Tester what my priorities were. My answer was that I had three: China, China, and China,” Kendall said.

Kendall expressed concerns about how China has quickened its pace in modernizing its military.

He explained, “I have had the opportunity to catch up on the intelligence about China’s modernization programs. If anything, China has accelerated its pace of modernization, and taken it in some disturbing directions.”

According to SpaceNews, Kendall said China’s modernization effort involves hypersonic missiles, long-range precision-guided munitions, and space and cyber weapons.

Additionally, he said there was “strong evidence” that Beijing was looking to develop silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and satellite-guided munitions to hit targets on Earth and in space, according to SpaceNews.

Kendall also hinted that China could pursue an old concept called “fractional orbital bombardment system” to advance its space weapons, SpaceNews reported.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed the system of launching missiles with nuclear warheads into low Earth orbits before flying them to hit targets in the United States.

Brandon Weichert, author of “Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower,” previously told The Epoch Times’ sister media NTD about how China would want to “knock out or blind our satellite” in a space war with the United States.

Weichert pointed to two Chinese space technologies that could cripple U.S. satellites. First, he said a giant robotic arm—10 meters in length, which can lift objects weighing up to 20 tons, according to Chinese state-run media—is attached to the Chinese space station and poses a serious threat.

The second Chinese technology that poses a threat to U.S. satellites is lasers, according to Weichert.

He explained, “Now, they [China] say in peacetime, the laser would be used to clear orbital debris. But, in wartime, that laser could potentially be used to blind sensitive American satellites in orbit.”

Other U.S. officials have also been voicing concerns about China’s build-up of nuclear weapons. In early August, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Beijing “has sharply deviated from its decades-old nuclear strategy based on minimum deterrence” with its rapid growth of nuclear arsenal.

On Aug. 12, Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said during a symposium that China’s nuclear capabilities would allow Beijing to “execute any plausible nuclear employment strategy.”

The Federation of American Scientists and the California-based James Martin Center recently uncovered how Beijing is building more than 200 nuclear silos at two separate fields in western China.

To compete militarily against China, Kendall said, “we have to respond with a sense of urgency, but we also have to take the time necessary to make smart choices about our future and our investments.”

Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers news in China and Taiwan. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.