Space Power: A Critical Strength and a Critical Vulnerability of the US Military   [open pdf - 114KB]

"In January 2007, China successfully tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon, launching a kinetic kill vehicle staged atop a ballistic missile to destroy an aging weather satellite orbiting 537 miles above earth. Though not the first such test US space agencies had detected nor necessarily the most aggressive, as Air Force Chief of Staff General T. Michael Moseley explained to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the January test confirmed China "can attrit and literally kill satellites." Few would counter the assertion space systems have become critical to the efficacy of the instruments of national power, but to what extent do capabilities such as those demonstrated by China's ASAT testing threaten the successful conduct of the nation's diplomatic, information, military, and economic activities? This paper specifically seeks to determine whether a potential adversary's ability to conduct counterspace operations makes space power a critical vulnerability of the US military. Iraq's 2003 counterspace operations provide proof positive the unchallenged space superiority the US military has enjoyed since Desert Storm can no longer be taken for granted. The United States disproportionate dependence on highly vulnerable space systems provides its enemies a recognizable opportunity to degrade the effectiveness of American forces that they are increasingly willing and capable of exploiting. By incorporating threat-based considerations into operational plans, war games, and exercises, theater commanders can better prepare their forces for the operational implications of "war in space.""

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