China's race towards space weapons

(To Andrea Gaspardo)

As all strategists have known for years, space today constitutes, together with the land, the sea, the sky, the virtual world and that of information, one of the six dimensions of the battlefield. It is therefore not surprising that the great powers are investing large sums of money and a capital of scientific research in order to develop and deploy new types of weapons designed to exploit the physical characteristics of the open space to modify the geopolitical balance here on earth one way or another.

China was the last of the great powers to have faced the "space front", after Russia and the United States, but it quickly burned down, if we consider that a recent report by the American "Defense Intelligence Agency" (DIA) states that: "Although China officially speaks in favor of a peaceful use of space and is carrying out negotiations at the UN for the non-proliferation of space weapons, at the same time it is continuing to improve and strengthen its military potential in this sphere, in order to to reach the capacity to carry out joint military operations of electronic war (EW), cybernetics and space ". For this reason, the DIA recommends that the developments of the Chinese space program be kept under close scrutiny because it could be nothing more than a cover to hide a vast rearmament program.

Objectively, the concerns of the DIA have some foundation, in fact the Chinese space program is incredibly stratified and involves different organizations with connections in the military, political, commercial and military-industrial sectors. Too large, in short, to have only "civil and peaceful" purposes.

In the last three decades, China has strongly enhanced the characteristics and reliability of its launch carriers in order to be completely independent of any third party for access to space; also in the 2003, with the mission named Shenzhou 5, it became the third country in the world to independently carry an astronaut (after the Soviet Union and the United States). Then in May of the 2018, Beijing announced what will be the two long-term goals of the Chinese space program: to assemble an automated moon research station within the 2025, and create an astronaut-based lunar base within the 2035.

Still according to the DIA document, however, in parallel China is also working hard to achieve the following "military" objectives:

- strengthen the sensor device able to find, point and identify the satellites in orbit;

- strengthen electronic warfare (EW) tools also usable in the space field;

- develop "direct energy weapons" (lasers) with the ability to degrade, damage or even destroy satellites or other sensors placed in orbit;

- develop cyber warfare capabilities to be used also in space;

- develop capacity for "intervention in orbit": for example repair of satellites in space;

- strengthen the capabilities of land-based anti-satellite missiles (ASAT);

-develop other anti-satellite capabilities still not well defined but with a potential envelope up to 30.000 kilometers.

It is therefore clear that the growing Chinese capabilities in the space sector are increasingly seen by the United States as a serious, if not an existential, threat. If in the early 2000s the then American president George W. Bush could say that "the United States was strongly determined to maintain absolute dominance in space", today's reality should instead lead us to prefer a scenario of "more coexistence actors ”in the sidereal space.

Photo: Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China