China and Russia are developing anti-satellite missiles and other weapons and will soon be capable of damaging or destroying all U.S. satellites in low-earth orbit, according to the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
The Joint Staff intelligence directorate, known as J-2, issued the warning in a recent report on the growing threat of anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons from those states, according to officials familiar with the assessment.
The report concludes that “China and Russia will be capable of severely disrupting or destroying U.S. satellites in low-earth orbit” in the next several years, said the officials.
The capability to attack low-earth orbit satellites could be in place by 2020, the officials said.
A Joint Staff spokesman declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing internal reports.
The J-2 report echoes a similar but less specific warning from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats in May.
“We assess that Russia and China perceive a need to offset any U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil, or commercial space systems and are increasingly considering attacks against satellite systems as part of their future warfare doctrine,” Coats said. “Both will continue to pursue a full range of anti-satellite weapons as a means to reduce U.S. military effectiveness.”
Coats added that both nations are pursuing information operations seeking international agreements that would limit U.S. defenses in space against such weapons.
Russia’s space weapons include a “diverse suite of capabilities to affect satellites in all orbital regimes,” Coats testified to Congress, including an airborne laser for use against U.S. satellites.
“Ten years after China intercepted one of its own satellites in low-earth orbit, its ground-launched ASAT missiles might be nearing operational service within the PLA,” Coats said.
Both China and Russia also are developing debris-removing satellites that Coats said could be used to damage satellites.