According to an op-ed published Tuesday, China and Russia regularly strike U.S. satellites with lasers, radio frequency jammers, and cyber attacks, Gen. David Thompson told The Washington Post.
“The threats are really growing and expanding every single day. And it’s really an evolution of activity that’s been happening for a long time,” announced Gen. Thompson, Vice Chief of Space Operations in the new military branch.
“We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.”
Thompson revealed a 2019 incident when a Russian satellite flew so close to the U.S. “national security satellite” that authorities thought it could be an offensive. Yet the spacecraft backed away and examined a projectile, according to the op-ed.
“It maneuvered close, it maneuvered dangerously, it maneuvered threateningly so that they were coming close enough that there was a concern of collision,” he reportedly stated. “So clearly, the Russians were sending us a message.”
Aside from Russia’s bluster, the Chinese were “well ahead” of their neighbors when it came to “fielding operational systems at an incredible rate,” the General told the paper at the Halifax International Security Forum earlier this month.
The conference opened only days after a Russian anti-satellite weapon test destroyed an obsolete Soviet-era satellite, sending debris flying towards the International Space Station.
Months earlier, China launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile into low orbit, a step that a Pentagon spokesperson explained would “only increase tensions in the region and beyond.”
Thompson told the paper China is now launching satellites into space at twice the rate of the US and will soon exceed the nation in its orbital output.
“We are still the best in the world, clearly in terms of capability. They’re catching up quickly,” he stated. “We should be concerned by the end of this decade if we don’t adapt.”
The White House was reportedly reaching out to Beijing to negotiate international rules for cyberspace and space as well as nuclear arms control, though Chinese officials rebuked the diplomatic attempt, according to the editorial — which claimed that the U.S. had to be more careful above the atmosphere.
The deployment of many relatively low-cost satellites around space assets would better position the U.S. in the event of a space war, Thompson reportedly proposed.
Thompson did not confirm or deny if there had been any serious attacks on U.S. satellites, stating that such an event would be classified information and he would not be able to discuss it.