Chinese Nerve

China’s test of an anti-satellite system earlier this year was “irresponsible,” Air Force Space Command chief Gen. Kevin Chilton said yesterday during AFA’s Air & Space Conference. Not only was the test of an ASAT a provocative move, but it left a “debris cloud” in space that will be a hazard for years. Chilton noted that following each of his space shuttle missions, windows had to be replaced because of impact damage from paint fleck-sized debris. Clearly incensed, Chilton said the Chinese “showed a lot of chutzpah” asking to participate in the international space station soon after creating the debris field that puts the ISS in perpetual danger. Chilton went on to say that there are lots of ways for the Air Force to disable hostile satellites without attacking them kinetically. Discussing defensive counterspace options if US satellites are attacked, Chilton said, “I’m not a fan of creating space debris,” and suggested that non-kinetic means—jamming or interrupting satellite uplinks or downlinks—might be a better way to go at the problem. He said US policy is correct, however, and that the US cannot give up “the right to defend itself” either on the ground or in orbit. Noting that there have been three recent space leadership summits to discuss the ramifications of China’s ASAT test, Chilton said one of the best countermoves is to have redundant intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, and communications capabilities, both in space and within the atmosphere. Having redundancy means an enemy would have little hope of crippling US networks with one or two well-aimed blows at satellites. “That gives you some deterrence and dissuasion,” he said because an enemy would have second thoughts about developing an ASAT if it wouldn’t have the desired effect.