False Alarm on Foreign Capabilities

By Lewis, Jeffrey | Arms Control Today, November 2004 | Go to article overview

False Alarm on Foreign Capabilities


Lewis, Jeffrey, Arms Control Today


The Commission to Assess U.S. National security Space Management and Organization, which Donald Rumsfeld chaired until his nomination as secretary of Defense, warned of a coming "Space Pearl Harbor."1 During congressional testimony in 2002, Rumsfeld repeated the warning:

Consider for a moment the chaos that would ensue if an aggressor succeeded in striking our satellite networks: cell phones would go dead; ATM cards would stop functioning; electronic commerce would sputter to a halt; air traffic control systems would go offline, grounding planes and blinding those in the air. U.S. troops would see their communications jammed; their precision strike weapons would stop working.2

"Today," Rumsfeld allowed, "no nation has the capability to wreak such havoc." He added, however, that the United States "must make sure no one can. Our goal is not to bring war into space, but rather defend against those who would."3

Who would? Some countries, particularly China and Russia, might have the capability to develop counterspace capabilities that would disable U.S. command, control, and intelligence systems based in space. They have not yet made that choice, however. Their decisions will depend in large measure on whether U.S. policymakers have the wisdom to forgo similar efforts; the United States is the only country currently developing counterspace systems (see page 12).

Rumsfeld claims that "adversaries are likely to develop ground-based lasers, space jamming, and 'killer' microsatellites to attack U.S. space assets," but this alarmist judgment is not based on the available evidence. Indeed, a fair reading of unclassified intelligence estimates and the Pentagon's own official statements suggest countries are not investing the time, money, and energy needed for such efforts.

Ground-Based Lasers

The Pentagon does not claim that it has evidence that any operational anti-satellite (ASAT) lasers have been deployed overseas or that a laser weapon has ever been used to destroy an orbiting satellite.4 Department of Defense officials do assert that working prototypes have "reportedly" engaged ground targets.

The "working prototype" in question is probably a reference to the Soviet-era Sary Shagan facility in Kazakhstan, which Russia continues to use to test anti-ballistic missile capabilities.5 Although 1980s-era editions of the Defense Department's Soviet Military Power speculated that the laser "may have sufficient power to damage some unprotected satellites in near-earth orbits," that conclusion was undermined by a visit of a team of researchers to the facility in 1989.6

China is sometimes said to be developing ground-based lasers that can be used to damage satellites, but the Defense Department, according to the most recent edition of its Chinese Military Power, has not found any facilities in China.7

Space Jamming

"Jamming" is the transmission of signals that interfere with the operation of a satellite or its payload.8 The Rumsfeld Commission cited "Indonesia jamming a transponder on a Chinese-owned satellite and Iran and Turkey jamming satellite TV broadcasts of dissidents" as recent examples.9 A closer look at the details of these cases reveals some general information about the overall sophistication of foreign jamming capabilities.

In the case of the dispute between Indonesia and China, APT Satellite of China reported "limited interference" with its Apstar-lA satellite from another satellite in a nearby orbital slot, operating on the same frequency.10 Although the commission calls the interference "jamming," the interference resulted from satellites operating too close together because the countries disputed ownership of the orbital slot. The dispute was eventually resolved peacefully.

Turkey and Iran have jammed satellite broadcasts by dissident groups. A Kurdish television station claimed the Turkish government jammed its broadcasts; Iran, operating from the Iranian Embassy in Havana, jammed a dissident radio station. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

False Alarm on Foreign Capabilities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.