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“Rods From God” Anti-Satellite Weapons Update
November 23, 2006, 3:09 pm
Filed under: Space, Strategic

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on 16th October that command Sergeant Major David Lady of the Joint Functional Combat Command for Integrated Missile Defense had confirmed the detection of anti – US satellite lasers over China:

“There had been times when we wondered at the sudden decline in effectiveness as the satellites passed over China,” CSM Lady said. Sensors at the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein atoll in the South Pacific were tasked with tracking the satellites and observing any unusual phenomena. “We sensed the projection of beams against the spacecraft and could identify the streams of photons,” CSM Lady said. [Source:Janes Defence Weekly]

However, also published in October 2006 on Foreign Policy was the claim by Theresa Hitchens (director of the Center for Defense Information’s Space Security Project) that, “We’re experimenting with lasers on the ground that could disable, disrupt, and destroy satellites. We’re not there yet, and it’s probably another 10 years before we have an actual, working weapon.” [Source:Foreign Policy].

United Press International® (News. Analysis. Insight.) are reporting that:

On a mysterious note, Dr. Gregory Kulacki, a China specialist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program, told the [Christian Science] Monitor members of the Senate Intelligence Committee learned of a recent incident “that has them very concerned,” although nothing else was known except it did not involve the use of lasers, the newspaper said. [Source: United Press International]

The report suggests that the recent incidents involved missile tests that may be precursors to anti-satellite systems. UPI suggest that discussions about the subject are being discouraged because of the sensitivity of US-China negotiations over the North-Korean nuclear tests. The Christian Science Monitor article emphasises the lack of current bilateral agreements between the US and China analagous to those that existed between US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War to mitigate against an escalation of a satellite arms race. With luck the US diplomatic discretion will help any discussions about this tend towards promoting cooperation rather than drumming up fear to justify an associated escalation.

UPDATE

I just noticed the Defensetech article from Sep 25 which has a lot of detail about the context of the claims discussed above and is also skeptical. However – the Jane’s article was published a month later, named its sources, and described satellite disruption.

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