Potential New War Front


On January 11, China tested a satellite-demolishing weapon, destroying an outdated Chinese weather space satellite by hitting it with a warhead launched from a ballistic missile.

For the technology-reliant United States, this is bad news. Rob Hewson, London-based editor of Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, called the test a “big fat challenge” to U.S. space superiority, and “an overtly military, very provocative event that cannot be spun any other way.”

The Chinese test occurred just a month after a speech by Undersecretary of State Robert G. Joseph on Dec. 13, 2006, to the George C. Marshall Institute, in which he warned that a number of countries are “acquiring capabilities to counter, attack and defeat U.S. space systems.”

Joseph feels that the U.S. space system stands as “a highly lucrative target” for terrorists or enemy nations like Iran and North Korea.

Space capabilities “are essential” to the U.S. economy and government, Joseph said. “Joseph listed telecommunications, transportation, electrical power, water supply, gas and oil storage, transportation systems, emergency services, banking and finance, and government services as relying heavily on data transmitted by satellites” (USA Today, Dec. 13, 2006).

Technology is among America’s strongest assets. It helps underpin an above-average standard of living for American citizens while giving America a strong military edge over its enemies. But the fact that the U.S.’s infrastructure and military are so dependent on technology makes it also an enormous potential liability. Disabling that technology would leave the country vulnerable to attack and easily foster a climate of civil disorder.

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Subcom _mittee on Technology and Terrorism in Washington, Oct. 6, 1999, Michael A. Vatis of the National Infrastructure Protection Center explained: “Foreign nations are developing information warfare programs because they see that they cannot defeat the United States in a head-to-head military encounter and they believe that information operations are a way to strike at what they perceive as America’s Achilles heel.”

Attacking American space satellites, which control large swaths of American civil and military infrastructure, could be a precursor to a more direct invasion.

Considering China’s bold move, as well as the increasing hatred for America around the world and the potential for destruction in a satellite attack, the U.S. should expect to have this weakness tested.