As the space domain has become more congested, the potential for intentional and unintentional threats to space system assets has increased. Space is also becoming another domain of conflict due to enhanced militarization and weaponization of space. This is driving nations whose military is highly dependent on space to launch their military space strategy to protect their space based assets.
Russia and China are engaged in robust efforts to fight wars in space, developing technology and weapons designed to take out U.S. satellites that provide missile defense and enable soldiers to communicate and monitor adversaries, according to US reports.
China continues to develop a variety of capabilities designed to limit or prevent the use of space based assets by adversaries during a crisis or conflict, including the development of ground-based direct ascent missiles that can physically destroy a satellite, directed-energy weapons and satellite jammers. Since 2005, China has conducted eight anti-satellite tests. Tests conducted in 2010, 2013, and 2014 were labelled “land-based missile interception tests.” China has conducted a series of tests of on-orbit proximity and rendezvous operations, Brian Weeden director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation, said, although the publicly available evidence “does not indicate they are explicitly aimed at offensive capabilities.”
Chinese military strategists see military space capabilities and operations as a key component of strategic deterrence, critical to enabling the PLA to fight informatized local wars and counter U.S. military intervention in the region and essential for supporting operations aimed at protecting China’s emerging interests in more-distant parts of the world, says RAND report.
Russia’s satellite constellation, of which military apparatuses account for two-thirds, is the world’s third-largest. On another front, Moscow is working on a new Anti Ballistic Missile system: the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system will be replaced by A-235. Experts suspect this will serve an anti-satellite purpose. There are multiple reports of Russia using GPS jammers in Eastern Ukraine, and , and also resurrected an airborne laser dazzler system known as the A-60.Russia has also done a series of its own on-orbit proximity and rendezvous operations demonstrations, both in low-Earth and geosynchronous orbits. “Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based system. And it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites, ” said Vice President Mike Pence.
The United States is probably the world leader in on-orbit proximity and rendezvous operations, he said, and there have been a lot of rumors about the U.S. considering developing more offensive capabilities to “defend” its satellites or take out Russian and Chinese satellites.
US President Donald Trump has signed Space Policy Directive 4 to facilitate the creation of a space force as a sixth branch of the country’s military. The new branch will be included within the Department of the Air Force, comparable to the establishment of the US Marine Corps under the remit of the US Navy. Under Space Policy Directive 4, the role of the US space force will be to organise, train, and equip military space forces of the nation to operate in space and to perform offensive and defensive space operations, and joint operations in all domains. During his speech at the White House signing ceremony Trump said: “We are investing in new space capabilities to project military power and safeguard our nation’s interests, especially when it comes to safety and defence.
Trump, in a recent speech said that “space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea. We may even have a space force. We have the Air Force; we’ll have the space force.” The primary aim of establishing a sixth armed service—the others being the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy—is to accelerate the development and deployment of new technologies for space warfighting, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters.
But the intent is not to militarize space; rather it is to avert a potentially disastrous conflict, said Todd Harrison, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. If the United States leaves its satellites vulnerable to new Russian and Chinese weapons, the likelihood that these weapons will be used increases, he argued.
US Space strategy
A new National Space Strategy announced by the White House March 23 2018 is intended to outline how the administration will protect American interests in space, fitting into a broader “America First” theme of policies by the current administration.
The strategy features four “essential pillars” that constitute “a whole-of-government approach to United States leadership in space, in close partnership with the private sector and our allies,” according to the document.
Three of those pillars are related to national security activities in space, including a shift to more resilient space architectures, strengthening deterrence and warfighting options in space, and improving “foundational capabilities, structures, and processes” that include space situational awareness, intelligence and acquisition issues.
“The strategy affirms that any harmful interference with or attack upon critical components of our space architecture that directly affects this vital interest will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing,” the release states.
The fourth pillar of the document is devoted to developing “conducive” environments for working with commercial and international partners. “We will streamline regulatory frameworks, policies, and processes to better leverage and support U.S. commercial industry, and we will pursue bilateral and multilateral engagements to enable human exploration, promote burden sharing and marshal cooperative threat responses,” the release states.
The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken the lead in organizing the new “Space Development Agency (SDA),” which from all accounts seems like a mini-DARPA focused on space technology development. DARPA received its marching orders to establish the SDA from Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin, who champions establishing this new agency. Griffin envisions the SDA as accelerating innovation in military space programs and bringing emerging technologies from the private sector into the Department of Defense (DoD).
The report said the job of the SDA will be to develop and field eight key capabilities. Together these capabilities comprise the “DoD Space Vision.” The eight capabilities:
* Persistent global surveillance for advanced missile targeting,
* Global and near-real time space situational awareness,
* Development of deterrent capability,
* Indications, warning, targeting and tracking for defense against advanced missile threats,
* Alternate positioning, navigation, and timing for a GPS-denied environment,
* Responsive, resilient, common ground-based space support infrastructure (e.g., ground stations and launch capability)
* Cross-domain, networked, node-independent battle management command, control and communications, including nuclear command, control, and communications,
* Highly-scaled, low-latency, persistent, artificial intelligence-enabled global surveillance
Griffin expects the study team to focus on the requirements for a Low Earth Orbit communications transport layer and explore the synergy of this essential backbone with the eight space capabilities outlined in the DoD Space Vision. The study team will also inventory DoD space-based command-and-control capabilities. It will identify critical gaps, deficiencies and inefficiencies in existing architectures and develop an agile responsive threat-driven architecture, associated infrastructure requirements and an acquisition construct.
Russia’s Aerospace force
In 2015 Russia actually merged its space force with the air force in an attempt to consolidate command authority and replicate the traditional U.S. approach. The Russian Aerospace Forces, as the branch is now known, is in many ways a three-branch service combining elements of the space forces, air forces, as well as air and missile defense forces under a single command. Beyond following the American example, Russia’s justification was that space is increasingly integrated, rather than separated, from everything else.
Announcing the merger in 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the merger “makes it possible […] to concentrate in a single command all responsibility for formulating military and technical policy for the development of troops dealing with tasks in the aerospace theater and […] to raise the efficiency of their use through closer integration.”
“The reason for Russia’s integration, is that the ISR capabilities required for air defense, missile defense, and anti satellite missions are closely related and multirole,” says Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at the Virginia-based CNA think tank. “Their mission definitions and the boundary between them is entirely contrived and artificial.”
China developing Integrated Air & Space Strategy
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force intends to expand its presence into space as part of its plan to become a world-class force, a senior officer said in Nov 2018. Senior Colonel Wang Zhonghua, head of the Planning Bureau of the PLA Air Force’s Equipment Department, said at a news conference in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, that the Air Force spares no efforts in handling all threats, and is gearing up to extend its reach beyond the clouds and into space.
He said the Air Force is undergoing revolutionary changes that will generate a system that can function in future warfare scenarios. Lieutenant General Xu Anxiang, deputy commander of the Air Force, outlined a multiphase road map for building a strong, modern air force. First, a strategic force will be established by 2020. It will have integrated air and space capability and balanced strength in both defensive and offensive operations.
When that is achieved, fourth-generation equipment will serve as the backbone of the Air Force’s arsenal. Information-based systematic combat capabilities will be enhanced, he said. The Air Force categorizes its top weapons such as the J-20 stealth fighter jet and Y-20 strategic transport aircraft as fourth-generation equipment, while the J-10 and J-16 combat fighters are classified as third-generation.
In the following phase, the Air Force will further improve its strategic capability and modernize its organizational structure, human resources and weaponry. The building of a modern strategic air force will essentially be achieved by 2035, Xu said. Ultimately, the Air Force will be fully transformed into a world-class force by the mid-21st century, he said.
UK space strategy
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has confirmed the launch of the nation’s first Defence Space Strategy designed to protect UK operations against emerging space-based threats.The responsibility for command and control of military space operations in order to defend the interests of the country in space.
RAF chief of air staff Sir Stephen Hiller said: “I am determined to ensure that the RAF’s leadership of military space operations transforms our ability to address the growing threats and hazards. “In doing this, it is essential that we work jointly across defence and with partners across government and internationally.”
The strategy also calls for leveraging private industry for latest space technologies. UK Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: “Space is a vital part our economy, with an industry worth £14bn a year. “With the launch of this strategy, we are setting our aspirations much higher to ensure that our industry continues to benefit from this growth in satellite technology. We are investing millions into Britain’s most innovative companies to help us launch forward in the space domain.”
The UK’s Defence Space Strategy will examine how the country can work in collaboration with its Nato allies in order to protect and defend their mutual space interests.
Desired Indian Space strategy
The space security of ever-expanding space assets from either attack or interference has become essential. So under broader concept of information dominance the goal of offensive counter space weapons, is to delay or deny an enemy’s capability to collect, process, and disseminate information by disrupting or destroying, as required, the enemy’s space systems.
Space security strategy should consist of four important elements: first is developing full range of military space capability like complementing imagery intelligence (photo and synthetic aperture radar), with signals intelligence (COMINT, ELINT) satellite constellations, early warning for Ballistic Missile Defence, data relay satellites, Microsatellites constellations and Launch on demand.
One of space capability gaps is that we lack capability to detect ASAT launches, like Chinese 2007, ASAT weapon test, when it deliberately hit and destroyed its own aging weather satellites at an altitude of 865 kilometers. India did not have any direct independent assessment of the Chinese test. It had to depend on the delayed US information for it to know that such a test had indeed occurred. Again on May 13, 2013, China reportedly tested ASAT again that reached more than 10,000 kilometers in altitude; still we don’t know what is happening.
Space situational awareness (SSA) is the foundational element of space security, National SSA Programmes should be launched to provide dependable, accurate and timely data regarding space situation (Space debris, Artificial Space objects, Space environment and NEOs) as well as Threat Warning and Assessment for threats like ASATs, Directed energy weapons, and HAND. Comprehensive SSA requires a networked system of radars and electro-optical sensors. Recently the trend is to use space based sensors to provide timely detection, collection, identification and tracking of man-made space objects from deep space to LEO orbits.
These shall be complemented by space- and ground-based space weather sensors monitoring the electromagnetic and sub-atomic particle fluxes incident on the Earth. Our space capabilities are also critically affected by Space Weather and need to be protected in severely degraded space environment due of natural and man-made space weather degradations like HAND events.
The third element is space protection. The numerous threats to our space assets demand that we develop new architectures say in MEOs which are less vulnerable to threats. For example, the U.S. Air Force placed two Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites in highly-elliptical orbits that are more challenging for China to target because of their high orbital speeds as they approach their perigee.
Satellite Clusters or satellite constellation consisting of networked microsatellites in multiple orbits can provide Robust, fault tolerant, flexible and scalable formation architectures for distributed spacecraft communication, control, and sensing. This require development of a Formation Flying Control System which highly autonomous and which optimize the performance of the cluster by cluster reconfiguration based on mission life span, collision avoidance, and mission related requirements such as resolution, observation time, and satellite failures and subsequent performance is desirable.
Of course, the final element is development of space deterrent and we have to develop satellite jammers, directed energy weapons, and ASAT capability. The India can also plan to strike ground nodes of adversary space segment.