Putin warns Russia will deploy new indefensible Zircon hypersonic weapon against U.S., NATO navies if Pentagon puts new missiles in Europe

In a threat harkening back to the days of the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that he’ll order his military to aim its new hypersonic missiles at the United States if the Trump administration decides to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in eastern Europe.




Speaking to his country during the annual state of the nation address, Putin said the military’s new Zircon missiles, which he said can travel at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 620 miles are part of the Kremlin’s effort to build up its defensive capabilities over what he says is an increasingly aggressive and hostile United States.

Putin’s announcement comes after the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from a key Cold War-era arms control pact banning the development and deployment of intermediate-range missiles, Fox News reported.

During his address, the Russian leader denounced the U.S. decision to quit the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which the Pentagon says Russia has been violated now for years. Putin said those accusations are false, but U.S. intelligence and State Department officials say the proof is irrefutable.

The Russian president repeated an earlier claim that Moscow wouldn’t be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles near Europe’s (and NATO’s) boundary. However, he warned that if the Pentagon puts missiles on the continent it would mean he will not only target host countries but also U.S. command-and-control centers and the American homeland.

Analysts say that Putin’s warning was clearly aimed at rattling Europe and NATO members who are considering U.S. missile deployment proposals.

Fox News reported further:



Speaking before lawmakers in the Russian capital, Putin added that the other weapons, which he announced last year, including the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone, have been undergoing tests successfully.

Putin also focused on a range of social issues in the annual speech, promising to raise welfare payments, improve education and healthcare, as well as remove toxic dump sites from cities.

As for the Zircon, it is designated the 3M22 and it is listed as a scramjet-powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile. If the missile’s specifications touted by Russia are accurate, it would mean that Zircon is capable of traveling about two miles per second, making all current state-of-the-art missile defense systems useless.

CNBC reports that Russia has conducted five tests of the Zircon, with the latest test occurring on December 10. The December test hit a top speed of Mach 8, or 6,138 miles an hour. A second report in December claimed that Russia has tested the Zircon 10 times.

It is reportedly compatible with surface warships, bombers, and can be submarine-launched as well.


 

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Iran claims its new submarine can launch cruise missiles in warning to U.S., Israel

Iran unveiled a new submarine this week that the government claims can launch cruise missiles while employing state-of-the-art technologies aimed at interdicting U.S. Navy warships and carriers in the Persian Gulf.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani introduced the new domestically-built semi-heavy sub dubbed the Fateh, or Conqueror, on Sunday to thousands at the port city of Bandar Lengeh, UPI reported.




The Iranians said that the Fateh can remain underwater for five weeks at a depth of 650 feet and is capable of launching cruise missiles that can travel more than several hundred miles.

“We will not bow down to the hegemonic power. We are ready to sacrifice ourselves and spill our blood to protect Iran,” Rouhani said at the ceremony, according to Al Jazeera.

The sub was unveiled just a week after Iran’s 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, which some analysts said was intentional.

“There are definitely messages, which are being conveyed to Washington, D.C.,” said Maysam Bizar, a Tehran-based journalist, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

He added that it’s an “old tradition” to show off Iran’s new military equipment during the revolution anniversary.

Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari said the Fateh was entirely produced in Iran. He noted that the sub’s construction began in 2008, but it’s completion “is a record since the average time in the world is between 12 to 15 years.”

The sub is comprised of some 412,000 pieces and employs 76 state-of-the-art technologies, Iranian officials said, as quoted by state media. Also, the sub took 4.2 million working hours to construct at 120 industrial centers featuring 80 knowledge-based companies, 57 universities and 195 research centers, the official Mehr news agency reported.

“Fateh submarine was a leap in building submarines and it completed the defensive chain of our country below waters,” said Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi, commander of Iranian َArmy and Navy.




The sub features torpedos and surface-to-surface weapons all of which are integrated into a new battle management system that includes advanced sonar. The sub is powered by a diesel-electric system which makes it very quiet.

“Defense Ministry’s Marine Industries Organization is prepared to carry out the missions of the Islamic Republic’s powerful naval forces, including the IRGC, Army and the Police Force in designing, constructing and supplying advanced marine equipment and weapons, fast, surface, sub-surface and ground-effect vehicles using the state-of-the-art technology,” Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, Iran’s defense minister, said in a report by Mehr.

Tehran’s first submarines were Soviet-built Kilo-class boats that were first deployed two decades ago. The Iranians launched their first home-produced submarine around 2006.

Some question whether Iran has really built the new sub on its own or the country had outside assistance.

Press TV published a promotional video of the sub:

Earlier this month, Iran announced it had conducted a successful test of its new cruise missile, the Hoveizeh, that has a range of up to nearly 850 miles, which is capable of striking Israel.

The Jewish state, meanwhile, has a small navy and submarine force, but it is highly advanced and arguably one of the most sophisticated in the world. The Israeli navy’s sub force also represents the country’s “second-strike” nuclear capability.

The navy received its fifth new sub, the INS Rahav, in 2016.

“Our submarine fleet serves as a deterrent to our enemies who seek our destruction.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time. “They need to know that Israel is capable of hitting with very great force anyone who tries to harm us. And Israel’s citizens need to know that Israel is a very strong country that is doing everything to defend them, everywhere and on every front.”

Foxtrot Alpha reports:

Built in Germany, [the Rahav] is a variant of the highly capable Dolphin 2 class of diesel-electric submarines. She joins four other boats in Israel’s fleet, the Dolphin, Tekuma, Leviathan and Tanin. The first three of which are Dolphin 1 class, with the Tanin being the first of the improved Dolphin 2 class.


Air Force to buy NEW advanced F-15s as compliments to the F-22, F-35: ‘Not your dad’s F-15’ (Video)

Despite warnings from some within the defense establishment and Congress, the U.S. Air Force has decided to buy as many as 80 brand-new, next-gen, upgraded F-15 fighter planes over the next five years to complement its F-22 and F-35 wings.

The upgraded F-15s will come in two versions — the single-seat F-15CX and the two-seat model F-15EX. According to officials, the new planes are capable of carrying much more ordnance including 12 air-to-air missiles and smart bombs, Popular Mechanics reports.

In addition, Boeing — the plane’s manufacturer — said the aircraft will come with what is arguably the fastest in-flight targeting computer in use today in any air force.

Bloomberg noted that 80 aircraft will be enough to outfit a wing of 72 fighters with eight spares. The wing would be divided into three 24-plane squadrons.

The F-15X is a completely upgraded fighter from the F-15 Eagle air superiority aircraft first introduced in the 1970s. According to one F-15X pilot featured in Boeing’s promotional video promoting the plane (see below), “This is not your daddy’s F-15.”




Popular Mechanics noted some of the fighter’s new features:

The F-15X will also include large flat panel displays for displaying aircraft information, conformal fuel tanks to give it a longer range, a digital fly-by-wire control system, a new APG-82 radar, and the Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) for protection from air-to-air missiles.

What the aircraft doesn’t have, however, is stealth capabilities like its F-22 and F-35 cousins. And because the airframe was designed before stealth technology became available, other than coating the plane’s surface in radar-absorbing material there isn’t much else that can be done to make it less visible to enemy air defense radars.

But while the plane won’t be difficult to spot, it will be extremely well-armed to make up the difference. “The plane will use new AMBER missile racks to nearly triple the aircraft’s air-to-air missile capability, from 8 to 22,” Popular Mechanics reported.

As for why the Air Force would want to buy an upgraded version of a fourth-generation plane when it has more than enough F35s in the pipeline, service officials say that the F-15X series aircraft will serve to complement their fifth-gen fighters mostly by adding additional mission capabilities.

For one, the F-15X models carry substantially more firepower. The F-22 and the F-35 carry only six and four air-to-air missiles respectively, hidden away in internal bays to reduce radar signature. And while both fifth-gen planes can add external weapons pylons doing so would make them visible to radar and defeat their purpose of evading defenses to strike enemy installations without detection.



Also, theoretically the new F-15s could be used to suppress enemy air defenses ahead of any F-22s and F-35s sent in to strike other targets. Currently, this mission is assigned to single-seat F-16C model aircraft.

Critics say purchasing the new F-15X models takes needed funding away from buying more F-35s. They also argue that increasingly sophisticated air defense networks make stealth aircraft imperative.

But for now anyway, the F-15X purchases will go forward — at least until the Pentagon and the Trump administration changes their minds.

Watch:


China working to develop ‘killer robot’ ships to hunt American destroyers, subs, aircraft

Chinese naval developers are working on a “robot” design they claim will be used to hunt American destroyers and submarines in the South China Sea and beyond.

The China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company’s small unmanned JARI USV is a 20-ton, 15-meter surface vessel the company hopes will function like a smaller version of the U.S. Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

And while the robot ship is far smaller than the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s Type-55 manned destroyers, the mission for the JARI USV is the same: Anti-submarine, anti-surface, and anti-air warfare.

The Chinese shipbuilder China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company is developing a small unmanned surface vessel that China wants to function essentially like the uninhabited baby brother of a U.S. Arleigh Burke destroyer.




A model of the drone was on display at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, Defense News reported.

The unmanned ship is equipped with an electro-optical sensor that sits atop a superstructure, as well as a phased array radar, a dipping sonar, eight small vertical launch system cells, a torpedo launcher and a forward mounted machine gun and rocket launcher for surface targets.

A model was displayed at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference.

The U.S. Navy has been pursuing similar designs to serve as surface platforms to be deployed against undersea and surface threats. Also, the Navy seeks to develop and deploy “a network of sensor and shooter drones to penetrate anti-access environments such as the South China Sea,” Defense News reported.

The JARI appears to be the PLAN’s version of a drone ship that would be tasked with a similar mission set.

Defense News further reported:

According to the product video, the drone appears to be modular and reconfigurable for the different mission areas, but it’s unclear what missions are permanently integrated into the system. In the video, JARI is shown alternately shooting down an aerial drone, sinking a submarine, machine-gunning a RHIB full of adversaries trying to steal it (after firing warning shots) and sinking a surface ship that looked a little like a littoral combat ship.

The boat tops out at 42 knots and has a range of about 500 nautical miles.

Last year, when China unveiled the design at a show in Africa, a representative told Navy Recognition that the drone was for use by the PLAN and for foreign sales and that a working prototype was being tested in China.

The Chinese vessel can be controlled by a ‘mother’ ship or a shore station, according to specifications.

It’s unclear where humans would be in the loop in terms of controlling the JARI and firing its weapons.


‘Furious’ U.S. admiral sent Navy destroyer to Black Sea after Russian warship fired on Ukrainian vessel

A U.S. Navy destroyer has been dispatched to the Black Sea for naval exercises with Ukrainian warships in a show of “solidarity” following an exchange of fire with a Russian ship that infuriated an admiral.

“The whole episode in the Sea of Azov was extremely bothersome to me,” said Navy Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference last weekend.

Reports noted that Russian ships opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels as they tried to transit the Kerch Strait, which is a narrow waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The Russians also arrested Ukrainian sailors after the incident last November.

It was the first public act of hostility by Russian forces against the Ukrainians since 2014 when “little green men” — disguised Russian troops — invaded Crimea and annexed the enclave for Moscow. Russia has used its control of land on both sides of the waterway to cut off access to a number of vital Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, the Washington Examiner reported.

“We’re showing solidarity,” Foggo said, referencing the deployment of the USS Donald Cook (above) to the region from its homeport at Naval Station Rota, Spain.




Moscow says the three Ukrainian vessels were captured as they attempted to force their way through the strait in an unsafe manner.

“They were apprehended — even though some people have illusions about Crimea — they were apprehended at the place which was Russian territorial waters even before the referendum,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday during the security conference, referencing the vote that Russia claims is underlying the basis for its claim to sovereignty over the Crimean side of the strait.

But that’s a false statement, U.S. officials and NATO member states noted. They say that the Ukrainian ships were taken in the Black Sea, on the international side of the Kerch Strait, making Moscow’s action illegal under international maritime law.

Foggo openly condemned the Russian action and jailing of 24 Ukrainian sailors on charges they illegally crossed a Russian border.

“Let me tell you, that irritates me to no end,” Foggo told reporters.

“They are uniformed Ukrainian sailors and officers and chiefs. They’re not criminals, and they are being charged under a criminal code,” he added.

“They should be protected under the Geneva Convention, which is why the United States and other NATO allies have come to the table and said ‘Release them immediately,’ and they still continue to hold them. That is just absolutely wrong, and it is not the kind of behavior that you would expect from a major power — which Russia wants to be.”

Foggo noted that Russian vessels track U.S. and NATO warships in the Black Sea region but they aren’t a match for American firepower.

“Let’s face it, the Russian carrier Kuznetsov doesn’t even come close to the Ford-class carrier or the Nimitz class carrier, and the surface navy is not an equivalent match for either the United States Navy or [other] NATO navies in the world,” Foggo said.


Russia to complete S-400 deliveries to Turkey by end of 2019, in defiance of U.S.: Report

Russia plans to complete its shipment of sophisticated S-400 anti-air, anti-missile systems to Turkey by the end of this year, according to Tass, which quoted CEO of Russia’s hi-tech corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov at the 14th IDEX-2019 international defense show on Monday.

“We have signed the contract and we will complete the deliveries by the end of this year. We will deliver all the systems this year,” he said, according to the newswire.

The news comes as the United States continues to oppose the sale, even going so far as to warn Turkey — a NATO member — that going through with the purchase would have negative long-term consequences.

On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to attendees at the Munich Security Conference, said the Trump administration “will not stand by idly while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.




“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” he added.

The Trump administration established a Feb. 15 deadline for Ankara to indicate its intention to stop the sale, according to a U.S. military official who spoke to Military Times. If Turkey refuses to do so, a forthcoming sale of the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system would be stopped.

“We have been clear with Turkey,” the U.S. official said. “The will not receive the Patriot if they purchase the S-400.”

If the Tass report is accurate, however, it appears as though Turkey is planning to go ahead with the purchase of S-400 systems.



“Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar earlier said that the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems would begin in October 2019,” Tass reported.

The S-400 reportedly has a range of about 250 miles and can strike targets up to 18.5 miles high.

The U.S. is concerned if it goes ahead with the Patriot missile sale that Turkey will allow PAC-3 technology to be accessed by Russian officials.


Internal assessments reveal Chinese leaders don’t think their military is up to task of defeating a modern enemy

Without question, the Chinese military has made substantial technological advances over the past 25 years as the country’s economy grew and as more resources were allocated to modernizing forces.

But translations of internal communications among Chinese civilian and military leaders reveal that there are doubts that the military is capable of meeting and defeating a modern enemy and that these doubts go back for years.

According to an analysis by War on the Rocks which was based on testimony presented to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on February 7, “A large body of evidence in China’s official military and party media indicates the nation’s senior civilian and uniformed leaders recognize significant shortcomings in the warfighting and command capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“However, most of this evidence is not translated into English for public consumption and is not considered in much of the foreign analysis of China’s growing military capabilities. This situation is not new, but goes back for decades,” the analysis says.

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, who is also the chairman of the Central Military Commission, the scope and frequency of the self-critiques have increased. The critiques indicate that senior Chinese military and Communist party leaders doubt the People’s Liberation Army’s ability to defeat a modern enemy in battle.

In addition, recognition of the PLA’s limitations and inexperience will very likely “moderate China’s near- and mid-term national security objectives” as well as “the manner in which they are pursued,” said the analysis.




The Chinese military’s shortcomings are the primary reason why Beijing seeks to achieve its foreign policy objectives via deterrence and “gray zone” actions that are short of war.

Identifying and overcoming Chinese military limitations began in earnest after the country’s short but bloody war with Vietnam in 1979. The Chinese launched the campaign as a means of “punishing” Hanoi for aligning more closely with Moscow than Beijing following the long war with the United States.

But China suffered 7,000 deaths and many more casualties, after invading Vietnam with about 300,000 troops. Though both sides claimed victory, historians generally note that China ‘lost’ in that Beijing failed to achieve stated geopolitical objectives.

Notes the analysis:

Following every major training event, units in all services of the PLA conduct after-action reviews to identify positive developments and detect specific shortcomings and weaknesses for correction. The results of these internal assessments are passed up the chain of command to the party and government’s highest military policy- and decision-making organization, the Central Military Commission. Some of this process is classified and not revealed to the public, but much of it is reported by the official media, mostly in the Chinese language, directed at an internal audience in China. It includes good, and often bad, news.

While translations differ regarding ‘abbreviations’ of internal critiques, the overall outcome of most assessments remains the same: “The PLA must overcome multiple shortcomings in its combat and leadership capabilities,” War on the Rocks noted.

Self-assessments of PLA capabilities appear to have increased under Xi versus his predecessor, Hu Jintao.

However, “these critiques continue to express skepticism about the PLA’s ability to win a local war and have been expanded to question the combat leadership ability of “some” leaders and the PLA’s loyalty to the party,” the analysis notes.

Xi has made modernizing the Chinese military a priority. Chinese state media has reported that Xi wants the PLA to become a world-class fighting force by 2050.

China Daily reported in October 2017:

Xi said as socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, the building of the national defense and the military has also opened a new chapter. He said the military should make all-out efforts to become a world-class force by 2050 and to strive for the realization of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. 

While technology has improved among PLA ground, air, and naval units, the force overall lacks operational and combat experience. Current vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, General Zhang Youxia voiced his concerns about this weakness in 2009 when he was Shenyang Military Region commander:



Today, the PLA hasn’t been in actual combat for many years now, yet the fires of war are burning throughout the world. In this area, the gap between the PLA and foreign militaries is growing day by day. This is an actual problem.

The Chinese media calls the PLA’s lack of combat experience the “peace disease,” and frequently urges the armed forces to overcome it by maintaining a high state of readiness much like the U.S. military remains ready to “Fight Tonight.”

As Foreign Policy reported last fall, China’s military is “untested” and could either be a “force or a flop.” The report noted:

Today, China’s military has an increasingly impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear. There are reasons to be skeptical. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) struggles under the legacy of an obsolete command system, rampant corruption, and training of debatable realism, among other issues.


U.S. Navy stepping up patrols in South China Sea but they aren’t likely to deter China

The Pentagon is stepping up so-called “Freedom of Navigation Operations” — FONOPs — in the South China Sea as a means of meeting and deterring Chinese aggression and expansionism.

The Navy has already carried out two FONOPs this year and officials say more are planned, the South China Morning Post reported.

However, observers say that the increase in U.S. Navy operations isn’t liable to influence Chinese decision-making in the region or deter Beijing from continuing to make outsized claims in the South China Sea.

In January, the USS McCampbell sailed near the Paracel Islands. On February 11, the USS Spruance and the USS Preble sailed near Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, both missions of which triggered predictable angry responses from China.

The U.S. Navy carried out five FONOPs last year and four in 2017, the SCMP noted.

Adm. Phil Davidson, head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, suggested last week during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that FONOPs in the South China Sea would be increased in the coming months.

He also said Britain’s naval activity would also increase in the South China Sea along with the activity of other U.S. allies.




China, thus far, is undeterred. In recent months Beijing has dispatched its own warships to the region in an effort to confront U.S. Navy ships. One such confrontation nearly led to a collision between U.S. and Chinese warships.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the U.S. would have to resort to other strategies than simply using FONOPs to deter Beijing.

“While freedom of navigation operations may be one of the ways the US expresses its security commitment to the governments, they will have a negligible effect on Beijing’s continued strategic and economic forays – especially via the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ – throughout the Indo-Pacific region,” he told the paper.



Indeed, he added, “Beijing may likely use the intensified foreign military presence, including joint FONOPs, as a justification for these build-ups.”

Yue Gang, a retired People’s Liberation Army colonel, told the SCMP that neither the U.S. nor China wants to go to war over the South China Sea.

“If the US sent a large number of warships, then China would do the same in order to maintain a balance, so that would increase the risk of confrontation,” he said.

“But China doesn’t want a military conflict in the South China Sea, and the claim America is willing to stage a war against China is an overstatement.”


Pence: U.S. ‘will not stand idly by’ while Turkey buys Russian S-400 systems

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday repeated earlier warnings that the United States would not look at all favorably on Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air- and missile-defense systems a day after Ankara blew off the first of two deadlines to end the deal.

Speaking to attendees at the Munich Security Conference, the VP said the Trump administration “will not stand by idly while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” he added.

Pence’s comments come after Germany continues moving ahead with plans earlier this month to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia that the U.S. also opposes.

As for the S-400, Washington had established a Feb. 15 deadline for Ankara to indicate its intention to stop the sale, according to a U.S. military official who spoke to Military Times. If Turkey refuses to do so, a forthcoming sale of the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system would be stopped.




“We have been clear with Turkey,” the U.S. official said. “The will not receive the Patriot if they purchase the S-400.”

The Patriot sale, valued at about $3.5 billion, covers the purchase of 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced and 60 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles and associated gear.

In addition to ratcheting up tensions with the U.S. and NATO, to which Turkey is a long-standing member, the purchase of the S-400 would also likely endanger Ankara’s participation in the international development of the F-35, the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter program.

Turkey sources some parts for the fighter and its development could be hampered if the U.S. ditches Turkey as a partner.

As for the Nord Stream pipeline, some U.S. analysts believe that Germany is seeking to diversify its natural gas supplies and that it intends to also purchase U.S.-produced LNG at some point.

President Trump has criticized Germany’s partnership with Russia on the project, saying the deal makes it ludicrous for Washington to continue spending so much money on helping Germany itself and Europe against Moscow, which remains an adversary.

Still, as Reuters reports, Germany will consider changes laws governing the Nord Stream 2 in order to ensure that it complies with new European Union regulations, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters on Friday.

“My assumption is that it can be built under the new conditions,” he said. “But there will clearly be some changes. One regarding the ownership of the pipeline, since European law requires ownership of pipeline and production to be separated.”


China preparing to deploy anti-satellite laser weapon by 2020

The Pentagon says that the Chinese military is preparing to deploy an anti-satellite laser weapon that can be used against American satellites and those of Western powers operating in low orbit by 2020.

According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report on emerging space threats, the Chinese “ASAT” weapon will be capable of either damaging or destroying targeted satellites, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The directed energy weapon is one of several designed for use against space-based targets including ground-based ASAT missiles, cyber attacks, electronic jammers, and small ‘hunter-killer’ satellites that the Chinese plan to use against U.S. satellites in any future conflict, the DIA report says.

“China likely is pursuing laser weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage sat­ellites and their sensors and possibly already has a limited capability to employ laser systems against satellite sensors,” said the unclassified report.

It added: “China likely will field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by 2020, and by the mid-to-late 2020s, it may field higher power systems that extend the threat to the structures of non-optical satellites.”




The report was the first time the Pentagon’s intelligence agency revealed details of ASAT laser weapons being developed by China.

Beijing’s military has been working to develop ASAT directed energy weapons at least since 2006. That year, the Chinese military used a laser to “dazzle” an orbiting U.S. satellite in what analysts said was a test.

That came about a year before China tested an ASAT missile against an old orbiting weather satellite. The missile destroyed the target, which created an extremely hazardous orbiting field of debris that still threatens existing space-based assets.

While China has also developed additional directed energy weapons, ASAT lasers are considered more advantageous because their effects can be hidden more easily.

The DIA report notes that high energy beams are able to destroy electro-optical detectors used for missile launches, optical systems that track launches, control surfaces, solar panels that power the satellites, and other vital parts as well.

Ground-based laser weapons are estimated to have effective ranges of between 310 and 620 miles and reportedly require 1,000 watts or more of power on average.

Other nations including Russia, Iran, and North Korea are believed to have developed or are developing, ASAT capabilities to knock out American satellites during a conflict.

“China and Russia, in particular, have taken steps to challenge the United States,” the report stated, noting that both countries’ military operating doctrines consider attacks against satellites “as a means to reduce U.S. and allied military effectiveness.”

Space News reported a year ago that both Russia and China were expected to have operational ASAT capabilities including directed energy weapons by next year.

“We assess that, if a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” warned the 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, released in February 2018 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.



Anti-satellite weapons have been a concern since the Cold War. In fact, the U.S. military has been studying “satellite intercept” vehicles since 1957.

In 2016, the U.S. Air Force committed to spending $1.1 billion per year for five years to study ways to defend against ASAT attacks.

“Potential adversaries have taken notice of how we use space and have taken steps to replicate those capabilities for their own use and to devise capabilities to take them away from us if they ever got into a conflict with us,” Winston Beauchamp, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space, told Scout Warrior at the time.