China, Russia Pursue Weapons to Hit Satellites

Article excerpt

China and Russia are working on a wide range of weapons capable of attacking U.S. satellites and space sensors, the Pentagon's top intelligence official told Congress yesterday.

Vice Adm. Thomas R. Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, also said his agency is unable to certify that China is adhering to pledges made to the United States to curb sales of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

"A number of countries are interested in or experimenting with a variety of technologies that could be used to develop counterspace capabilities," Adm. Wilson said in prepared testimony on national security threats.

"China and Russia have across-the-board programs under way, and other smaller states and nonstate entities are pursuing more limited - though potentially effective - approaches."

He appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee with CIA Director George J. Tenet as part of the U.S. intelligence community's annual world threat briefing.

The three-star admiral said that by 2015 "future adversaries will be able to employ a wide variety of means to disrupt, degrade or defeat portions of the U.S. space support system."

The U.S. military is heavily reliant on satellites and space-based sensors for communications, intelligence, reconnaissance, and command and control of forces around the world.

Weaker foreign militaries view U.S. space systems as a key vulnerability that would provide a strategic advantage during a conflict.

Mr. Tenet, in his prepared statement for the Senate hearing, also said information warfare and space weapons are a growing threat.

"Our adversaries well understand U.S. strategic dependence on access to space," Mr. Tenet said. "Operations to disrupt, degrade, or defeat U.S. space assets will be attractive options for those seeking to counter U.S. strategic military superiority."

It was the first time U.S. intelligence officials publicly discussed the space warfare threat.

The disclosure followed recent official statements by Russian and Chinese governments criticizing a U.S. Air Force war game involving a simulated future conflict with China. Mock Chinese forces attacked U.S. space systems during the exercise, according to military officials.

China is developing ground-based laser weapons and electronic pulse weapons that can blind or destroy U.S. satellites, U.S. intelligence officials have said.

In wide-ranging testimony, Mr. Tenet, flanked by Adm. Wilson and the State Department intelligence chief, Thomas Fingar, testified that:

* Terrorists linked to Saudi fugitive Osama bin Ladin pose "the most immediate and serious threat" of attacks on American interests. "The threat from terrorism is real, immediate and evolving," Mr. Tenet said.

* Long-range ballistic missiles are a growing threat beyond the strategic missile arsenals of Russia and China and include North Korea, Iran and possibly Iraq.

* The risk of war between South Asia rivals India and Pakistan is "unacceptably high" and could lead to a regional conventional and nuclear conflict. …