U.S. satellites are being attacked every day according to space force general
U.S. Space Force’s General David Thompson, the service’s second in command, said last week that Russia and China are launching “reversible attacks,” such as electronic warfare jamming, temporarily blinding optics with lasers, and cyber attacks, on U.S. satellites “every single day.” He also disclosed that a small Russian satellite used to conduct an on-orbit anti-satellite weapon test back in 2019 had first gotten so close to an American one that there were concerns an actual attack was imminent.
Thompson, who is Vice Chief of Space Operations, disclosed these details to The Washington Post‘s Josh Rogin in an interview on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum, which ran from Nov. 19 to 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. The forum opened just four days after a Russian anti-satellite weapon test involving a ground-launched interceptor, which destroyed a defunct Soviet-era electronic intelligence satellite and created a cloud of debris that presents a risk to the International Space Station (ISS). That test drew widespread condemnation, including from the U.S. government, and prompted renewed discussion about potential future conflicts in space.
“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,” Thompson, told Rogin. “We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.”
America’s dominance in space has made the U.S. military uniquely vulnerable in this arena. The U.S. is “increasingly reliant on its space-based systems—of which a significant percentage are highly vulnerable and largely indefensible,” Stratfor wrote (Nov. 11, 2015). Striking one of these would deliver a “critical blow ahead of any physical strike.” Take away these space systems, and American commanders become blind, deaf and dumb.
Most other countries don’t have the same satellite technology. Therefore, as Stratfor explained, “[T]he United States cannot use the threat of disabling other countries’ space-based communications infrastructure to prevent attacks because other countries do not rely as heavily on the technology.” The type of mutually assured destruction that has so far prevented nuclear weapons from being used does not apply to space.
If another nation destroys all of America’s satellites, America cannot retaliate. Smart bombs and gps-guided battlefields help America avoid collateral damage and gives it an edge. But it also creates a unique dependency. Cut any other nation off from space, and it’s a minor inconvenience. But deny America the use of space, and its normal methods of conducting warfare are useless.