Author Topic: Global Counterspace Capabilities [2018]  (Read 1309 times)


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Global Counterspace Capabilities [2018]
« on: August 08, 2018, 01:51:13 AM »
I had already shared this report in a previous thread about Trump's proposed "space force", though I feel that this topic probably deserves its own thread. The following are excerpts from the Secure World Foundation's April 2018 report on the counterspace capabilities of states known to either possess them or might be capable of developing them, including: China, Russia, the United States, Iran, North Korea and India.

Of thee states mentioned, it is the United States, China and Russia which have the most developed capabilities.

Counterspace capabilities are classified into several categories:
  • co-orbital ASAT
  • direct-ascent ASAT
  • electronic warfare
  • directed energy weapons
  • cyber counterspace capabilities

Link to the full report here.

Over the last few decades, China has embarked on a sustained national effort to develop a broad
spectrum of space capabilities across the civil, national security, and commercial sectors
. Space
capabilities under development by China include a robust human spaceflight and robotic space
exploration program; remote sensing for weather and resource management; and military
applications such as positioning, navigation and timing and intelligence, surveillance and

China appears to be highly motivated to develop counterspace capabilities in order to bolster its
national security. China is beginning to more strongly assert its regional political, economic, and
military interests, and sees counterspace capabilities as a key enabler. Much has been written about
how reliant the United States is on space capabilities to project global military power, and thus
being able to counter U.S. space capabilities is a key element of China’s ability to assure its
freedom of action and deter potential U.S. military operations in its sphere of influence.

There is strong evidence suggesting that China has a sustained effort to develop a broad range of
counterspace capabilities. Over the last decade, China has engaged in multiple tests of technologies
and capabilities that either are offensive counterspace weapons or could be used as such.
has also begun developing the policy, doctrine, and organizational frameworks to support the
integration of counterspace capabilities into its military planning and operations. That said, it is
unclear whether China intends to fully utilize counterspace capabilities in a future conflict, or
whether the goal is to use them as a deterrent against aggression. There is no public evidence of
China actively using counterspace capabilities in current military operations.

Over the last two decades, Russia has refocused its effort on regaining many of the space
capabilities it lost following the end of the Cold War.
For the first several decades of the Space
Age, the Soviet Union developed a robust set of governmental space programs that matched, or
exceeded, the United States in many areas. While often not quite a technologically advanced as
their American counterparts, the Soviets nonetheless managed to field significant national security
space capabilities.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed a range of counterspace capabilities as part of
its strategic competition with the United States. Many of these capabilities were developed for
specific military utility, such as destroying critical American military satellites, or to counter
perceived threats, such as the Reagan Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Some of them
underwent significant on-orbit testing and were considered operationally deployed. However, the
Soviet Union also signed bilateral arms control agreements with the United States that put limits
on the use of counterspace capabilities against certain satellites. Many of these programs were
scrapped or mothballed in the early 1990s as the Cold War ended and funding dried up.

There is strong evidence that Russia has embarked on a set of programs over the last decade to
regain some of its Cold War-era counterspace capability. In some cases, the evidence suggests
legacy capabilities are being brought out of mothballs, and in other cases the evidence points to
new, modern versions being developed.
In all cases, Russia has a strong technical legacy to draw
upon. Under Putin, Russia also has renewed political will to obtain counterspace capabilities for
much the same reasons as China: to bolster its regional power and limit the ability of the United
States to impede on Russia’s freedom of action.

Unlike China, there is also significant evidence that Russia is actively employing counterspace
capabilities in current military conflicts. There are multiple, credible reports of Russia using
jamming and other electronic warfare measures in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and indications
that these capabilities are tightly integrated into their military operations.

The United States currently has the best military space capabilities in the world. During the Cold
War, the United States pioneered many of the national security space applications that are in use
today and remains the technology leader in nearly all categories. The U.S. military also has the
most operational experience of any military in the world in integrating space capabilities into
military operations, having done so in every conflict since the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq.

During the Cold War, the United States, like the Soviet Union, had multiple counterspace
programs, ranging from nuclear-tipped missiles to conventional DA-ASATs launched from fighter
jets. Most of these programs were aimed at countering specific Soviet military space capabilities,
such as the ability to use satellites to target U.S. Navy ships with anti-ship missiles. After the fall
of the Soviet Union, the United States briefly considered pushing ahead and developing new
counterspace systems to solidify its space superiority. However, these efforts never fully
materialized due to a range of factors, including domestic budgetary and political pressure, a
deliberate act of self-restraint, and the focus on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns
following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Today, the United States fields one acknowledged counterspace system and has an electronic
warfare capability, but it also has multiple other operational systems that could be used in a
counterspace role. There is evidence to suggest a robust debate is underway, largely behind closed
doors, on whether the United States should develop new counterspace capabilities, both to counter
or deter an adversary from attacking U.S. assets in space and to deny an adversary their own space
capabilities in the event of a future conflict.
The impetus for this debate is renewed Russian and
Chinese counterspace development, and the recent conclusion that the United States is engaged in
great power competition with Russia and China.

Iran has a nascent space program, building and launching small satellites that have limited
capability. Technologically, it unlikely Iran has the capacity to build on-orbit or direct-ascent anti
satellite capabilities, and little military motivations for doing so at this point.
Iran has not
demonstrated any ability to build homing kinetic kill vehicles, and its ability to build nuclear
devices is currently constrained by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran has demonstrated
the ability to persistently interfere with the broadcast of commercial satellite signals, although its
capability to interfere with military signals is difficult to ascertain.

North Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has no
demonstrated capability to mount kinetic attacks on space assets; neither with a direct ascent
ASAT nor a co-orbital system.

In its official statements, North Korea has never mentioned anti-satellite operations or intent,
suggesting that there is no clear doctrine guiding Pyongyang’s thinking at this point. North Korea
does not appear motivated to develop dedicated counterspace assets
, though certain capabilities in
their ballistic missile program might be eventually evolved for such a purpose.
The DPRK has demonstrated the capability to jam civilian GPS signals within a limited
geographical area. Their capability against U.S. military GPS signals is not known.
There has been
no demonstrated ability of the DPRK to interfere with satellite communications, although their
technical capability remains unknown.

India has over five decades of experience with space capabilities, but most of that has been civil
in focus. It is only in the past several years that India has started organizationally making way for
its military to become active users and creators of its space capabilities. India’s military has been
developing an indigenous missile defense program that its supporters argue could provide a latent
ASAT capability, should the need arise; this capability has not been tested.
It is possible that India
would move into rapidly testing an ASAT if it felt that the international community was getting
close to creating an international legal regime banning kinetic ASAT tests; otherwise, given how
much investment the Indian military is making in its satellite capacity and the income that Indian
rockets are making launching other countries’ satellites, it is unlikely that they will move to
actively create an official counterspace program.


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Re: Global Counterspace Capabilities [2018]
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2020, 05:03:22 PM »
The updated 2020 report:

Highlights from the 2020 Report


    Conducted additional rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) of their SJ-17 to inspect a potential anomaly with Chinasat 5C in GEO
    Reports of widespread GPS jamming near port of Shanghai
    Additional details on Chinese ground-based directed energy facilities


    New research suggesting tho have two separate programs, Burevestnik and Nivelir, which may correspond to a co-orbital ASAT program and a surveillance/tracking program, respectively
    Conducted additional RPO activities in LEO and GEO, including shadowing of a NRO imagery satellite
    Evidence of a new program called Ekipazh to develop nuclear-powered space-based electronic warfare capability
    Widespread PNT jamming and spoofing in Crimea, Syria, and Russia

United States

    Conducted covert release of cubesats from X-37B OTV-5
    More public details on the RPO activities of GSSAP and Mycroft
    Widespread GPS jamming for naval exercises in the southeastern U.S.
    Re-establishment of the United States Space Command and creation of the United States Space Force


    Overview of the new French Space Defense Strategy and plans for ground-based lasers and guardian satellites


    Updated information on March 2019 ASAT test
    Information on the establishment of the Defence Space Agency and the Defence Space Research Organization


    Information on attempted Iranian satellite launches in August 2019 and February 2020
    Reports of Iranian GNSS jamming occurring near the Straits of Hormuz


    Information on their exploration of counterspace capabilities


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Global Counterspace Capabilities [2021]
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2021, 11:30:30 PM »
Updates from the latest report:

  • Launch of an experimental Chinese spaceplane and potential deployment of a subsatellite
  • SJ-17 RPO on the geostationary belt with SJ-20 and Chinasat 6B
  • Unverified reports of Chinese counterspace jammers deployed to the India-China border
  • Clarification of the role of the Strategic Support Force in Chinese military space and counterspace operations

  • More details about the Burevestnik program including an aircraft-carried solid fuel launch vehicle for potentially deploying co-orbital ASATs
  • More details about the Cosmos 2543 RPO of USA 245 and public concerns from senior U.S. military leaders
  • Deployment of a subsatellite/projectile from Cosmos 2543
  • Two new tests of the Nudol ground-based DA-ASAT system
  • New program called Tobol that is reportedly aimed at protecting Russian satellites from uplink jamming
  • New report of testing of the A-60 airborne laser dazzler against a Japanese satellite
  • Deployment of the Peresvet mobile laser dazzler system to protect Russian mobile ICBMs
  • New Milky Way program to upgrade Russian SSA capabilities with new ground- and space-based telescopes
  • More details about the organic integration of counterspace EW units into Russian Motorised Rifle Brigades

United States
  • Added details about the SAINT satellite inspector and co-orbital ASAT program and the Bold Orion, High Virgo, Project Hi-Ho, Nike Zeus, and Program 437 ground-based DA-ASAT programs that were active in the 1950s and 1960s
  • Added details on OTV-6 of the X-37B, which included a potential satellite deployment and testing of an on-orbit power beaming system
  • New Meadowlands update to the Counter Communications System (CCS)
  • Deployment of GPS M-Code signals and end user terminals
  • Deployment of ORS-5 and TDO-2 satellites for space-based SSA
  • New counterspace and deterrence aspects of the 2020 U.S. National Space Policy
  • Details on the stand-up and organization of the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command
  • Details on space doctrine from the U.S. Space Force Space Capstone Publication and the U.S. Space Command's Commander's Strategic Vision
  • Allied participation in Operation Olympic Defender
  • Development plan for the French Space Command
  • More details about the 2019 Indian ASAT test
  • Indian government official remarks about potential future ASAT tests at higher altitudes
  • New information on Indian directed energy weapons research
  • Operational status of the Indian SSA Control Centre
  • New Iranian military space launch vehicle, the Qassed
  • Details on the creation of the Iranian Space Command
  • Reports of GPS spoofing near the staff college for the Iranian Army
  • Successful SM-3 Block 2A intercept test
  • Information on SSA hosted payloads from the United States to be added to future Japanese QZSS satellites
  • Renamed National Space Policy Secretariat
  • Details on the June 2020 Outline of the Basic Plan on Space Policy for Japan
North Korea
  • No significant developments reported
  • Conference paper detailing weaknesses in commercial geostationary satellite broadband Internet services
The 2021 report also includes a new appendix with historical tables of ASAT testing in space by country and a revamped appendix of satellite imagery of key launch and test facilities associated with counterspace programs.

2021 Executive Summary

2021 Full Report