The U.S. military is developing weapons to counter China and Russia in space, according to a newly declassified document.
U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) officials are working on weapons that will provide them with offensive capabilities in addition to assisting with defending against foreign attacks.
"DoD requires joint military space capabilities to protect and defend U.S., and as directed, allied, partner, and commercial space assets and to protect the Joint Force, allies, and partners from adversary hostile uses of space."
One set of weapons was described as "integrated space fires." Updated electronic capabilities are also a key part of the U.S. strategy to deal with "cunning adversaries," according to the document.
The Space Force has previously disclosed work on a satellite jammer from L3Harris Space and Airborne Systems. The jammer enables U.S. fighters to temporarily disable satellites.
Warfighting efforts are dealt with, in part, by the Space Warfighting Activities Group, composed of officials from the DOD and intelligence agencies.
Battles could take place across different areas of space.
"As potential adversaries increase their use of space-based services to support their combat capability, operations to deny hostile use of space could reduce an adversary’s ability to conduct attacks against the United States and its allies and partners. Joint Force space operations could deny an adversary’s space and counterspace capabilities and services using a variety of reversible and irreversible means, reducing the effectiveness and lethality of adversary forces across all domains," the document reads.
China and RussiaThe document describes China as "the most serious threat" and Russia as "an acute threat."
China is approaching space as "a warfighting domain" and working toward making sure it wins any conflicts there, according to the review. Chinese officials are believed to be developing missiles that can destroy satellites in low Earth orbit, among other weapons.
"As the [Chinese military] has developed and fielded these counterspace weapons, it has simultaneously promoted false claims that it will not place weapons in space," the document reads.
Russia has a goal of achieving dominance in space and "developing, testing, and fielding a suite of reversible and irreversible counterspace systems to degrade or deny U.S. space-based services as a means of offsetting a perceived U.S. military advantage and deterring the United States from entering a regional conflict," officials said.
Systems include directed energy weapons and missiles, including a missile that in 2021 struck a defunct Russian satellite and shattered it into thousands of pieces.
Russia has already created some of the world's most capable satellites for imagery and missile detection.
Lawmakers ReactRep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said both China and Russia have sped up deployment of space weapons at an alarming rate.
"With this report, the Department of Defense has started what needs to be a robust discussion of what we must do to protect the Joint Force from Russian and Chinese space weapons. We must continue to move the ball forward as we look to achieve a comprehensive military advantage in space," he said in a statement.
Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), ranking Democratic member of the panel, and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said it was "crucial" to be able to win battles if deterrence fails.
"Perhaps most importantly, the strategy ensures that we remain the world leader in the responsible use of space and establishing and maintaining norms of behavior in this increasingly essential domain," they said.
The document states that the DOD is working to uphold norms of behavior in space, based on four space treaties and the United Nations charter. It has also taken other steps, such as committing in 2022 not to carry out destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite missile testing. Those missiles target satellites in low Earth orbit.
All the lawmakers said the disclosure of the strategy was a welcome step to what they viewed as over-classification and that they hope that the United States can collaborate better with allies and companies.
The United States is seeking more than $33.3 billion in funding for space in fiscal year 2024. That would be its largest space budget ever if approved. The funding will go, in part, toward "next-generation overhead persistent infrared space capabilities."