Chinese Anti-Satellite [ASAT] Capabilities and ABM CapabilityNot merely did China demonstrate an ASAT capability on January 11, 2007 more recently it demonstrated the SC-19 ASAT in an ABM roll in country when it tested the derivation on the modified KT-1 which is derivation on the DF-31 ICBM on January 11, 2010. Also see :DF-21
On 17 January 2007 Craig Covault, writing in Aviation Week & Space Technology, reported that China conducted a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons test at about 5:28 p.m. EST on 11 January 2007. A kinetic kill vehicle launched by a medium range ballistic missile destroyed an inactive Chinese weather satellite. The Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbiting metrological satellite had been launched in 1999. The ASAT was launched from or near the Xichang Space Center, and intercepted the target at an altitude of variously reported as either 530 or 537 miles. This altitude is consistent with the operational altitudes of American and Japanese imagery intelligence satellites.
"The U.S. believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "We and other countries have expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese."
China does not have a publicly acknowledged dedicated anti-satellite effort. Existing Chinese launch capabilities could provide the basis for the development of such a system. The missile used for the 17 January 2007 test was not immediately identified. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the ASAT was launched on a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile. This would probably be the DF-21 / CSS-5 medium range ballistic missile, with a range of 1800 km carrying a 600 kg warhead.
CNN's Jamie McIntyre reported on 17 January 2007 that this successful test followed two or three earlier unsuccessful attempts. These prior attempts had not been previously reported in public. This would be generally consistent with the flight history of the small commercial satellite launch vehicle, called KT-1 (Kaituozhe-1), based on the solid rocket motors of the DF-31 ICBM. This system has consistently failed to place satellites into orbit, a flight profile consistent with a direct ascent ASAT test. The ASAT launcher is known as the KT-409 derivation of the DF-31, and KT-1 space booster.
R&D on fundamental technologies applicable to an ASAT weapons system have been ongoing since the 1960s. Under the 640 Program, the space and missile industry's Second Academy, traditionally responsible for SAM development, set out to field a viable antimissile system, consisting of a kinetic kill vehicle, high powered laser, space early warning, and target discrimination system components. This program was abandoned in 1980.
Preliminary research on ASATs has been carried out since the 1980s, at least partly funded under the 863 Program for High Technology Development.
PLA-affiliated publications assert that while China does not yet possess the capability to destroy satellites with high-powered lasers, they are capable of damaging optical reconnaissance satellites.
The 1998 Report to Congress "Future Military Capabilities and Strategy of the People's Republic of China", states "China already may possess the capability to damage, under specific conditions, optical sensors on satellites that are very vulnerable to damage by lasers. However, given China's current interest in laser technology, it is reasonable to assume that Beijing would develop a weapon that could destroy satellites in the future."
China is said to be acquiring a variety of foreign technologies, which could be used to develop an anti-satellite (ASAT) capability. Beijing already may have acquired technical assistance which could be applied to the development of laser radars used to track and image satellites and may be seeking an advanced radar system with the capability to track satellites in low earth orbit. It also may be developing jammers, which could be used against Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. In addition, China already may possess the capability to damage, under specific conditions, optical sensors on satellites that are very vulnerable to damage by lasers. Beijing also may have acquired high-energy laser equipment and technical assistance, which probably could be used in the development of ground-based ASAT weapons.
Given China's current level of interest in laser technology, Beijing probably could develop a weapon that could destroy satellites in the future. Although specific Chinese programs for laser ASAT have not been identified, press articles indicate an interest in developing this capability and Beijing may be working on appropriate technologies.
According to senior consultant, James T. Westwood, of Military Science and Defense Analytics, Unionville, VA, the Chinese ASAT test in January, 2007, was propitious in confirming in the real world, an original operations research and analysis study he did during 1989-1990 while consulting to a consortium of defense contractors paid by the then Strategic Defense Initiative Office (SDIO) in the Pentagon.
In that novel study, Westwood showed that space-based 'Brilliant Pebbles' component of the national missile defense system, sponsored by Dr. Lowell Wood (Edward Teller's protégé), of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, was a fundamentally flawed concept of operations because (1) it required less than one percent of the total constellation contemplated by the LLNL model to perform effectively and (2) because, like as the PRC anti-satellite event over fifteen years later, every successive, successful, kinetic-kill impact would increase the volume of an orbiting debris cloud, itself ever-more ruinous of the jth "pebble's" reliability .
The Clinton Administration cancelled 'Brilliant Pebbles' five years later. During this ground-breaking study, Mr. Westwood collaborated with Dr. Gregory Canavan, a kinematicists’ and, at one time, the youngest lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force on active duty, then at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Kinematics is that branch of physics which studies bodies in motion without respect to how they come to be in motion.)
In August 2006 there were reports that China had fired high-power lasers at American intelligence satellites flying over its territory. National Reconnaissance Office Director, Donald M. Kerr, told reporters that a US satellite had recently been "painted," or illuminated, by a ground-based laser in China. Some observers saw this as tests of Chinese capability to blind the spacecraft, while others took it as being tests of a laser radar for guiding a direct ascent kinetic energy ASAT. It was unclear how many times a the ground-based laser was tested against US spacecraft.
According to Westwood, in 1978, while employed as a senior special research analyst for one of the three-letter national intelligence agencies, he discovered and crystallized into application, a novel, original technique for interpreting and predicting all of the military and space programs of the former Soviet Union with consistent accuracy and reliability. There came from this numerous applications and non-surprises, e.g., that the ballistic missile programs, with their space rocket off-shoots (to coin a phrase), were arguably the most reliable and revealing among the thousands of armor, aircraft, ship, artillery, etc. military hardware and operations programs. In a recent interview with this author, Westwood says that to the extent that the military programs of the PRC long may have replicated the former Soviet Union's national planning schema, the same methodology likely can successfully illuminate China's future military and space programs. The present author was taught this methodology by Westwood in a Continuing Engineering Education short course at the George Washington University in the late 1980's.
The Dalian Universuty of Technology design team was on January 9, 2009 awarded the top PRC Science and Technology Award for the development of the ASAT system. It was headed by Gua Dongming head of the Dalian scientific team that included Jai Zhenyuan, Kang Renke, Wang Yongqing, Sheng Xianjun of Dalian University and Yu Huilong of the 25th institute , 2nd. Academy Astronautics science and industry group.
Chinese ASAT and rates of change email@example.com (Allen Thomson) 1995/12/31
- CHINA'S STRATEGIC MODERNIZATION: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES Mark A. Stokes [U.S. Army Strategic Studies Institute] -- September 1999
- Future Military Capabilities and Strategy of the People's Republic of China, Report to Congress pursuant to Section 1226 of the FY98 National Defense Authorization Act) (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, November 1998)
- DoD News Briefing , November 3, 1998 -- Bill Gertz in the Washington Times cites a Pentagon report that concludes that China has weapons capable of, laser weapons capable of damaging or disabling sensors on U.S. satellites. So you're saying that your understanding of that report, which you're going to provide us a copy of, does not support the conclusion that was in that newspaper? A: That's correct.
- Future Military Capabilities and Strategy of the People's Republic of China, Report to Congress pursuant to Section 1226 of the FY98 National Defense Authorization Act) (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, June 2000)
- Chinese Test Anti-Satellite Weapon By Craig Covault Aviation Week & Space Technology 01/17/2007
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|