Stories
Pentagon Seeks $300 Million+ for Militarization of Outer Space
Next Post

Press {{ keys }} + D to make this page bookmarked.

Close
Photo: defense.gov / PrtSc

Pentagon Seeks $300 Million+ for Militarization of Outer Space

310

USA – March 19, 2019

For many years, it has been agreed that space should be used for peaceful purposes, and for the benefit of all mankind. However, the warmongering regime of the US administration has just started a wasteful expenditure of an arms race in space.

As part of a ramped-up effort to explore various types of space-based weaponry, defense officials want to test a neutral particle-beam in orbit in fiscal 2023. They’ve asked for $304 million in the 2020 budget to develop such beams, more powerful lasers, and other new tech for next-generation missile defense. Such weapons are needed, they say, to counter new missiles from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. But just figuring out what might work is a difficult technical challenge, DefenseOne notes.

The Pentagon is undertaking two studies. The first is a $15 million exploration of whether satellites outfitted with lasers might be able to disable enemy missiles coming off the launch pad. Defense officials have said previously that these lasers would need to be in the megawatt class. They expect to finish the study within six months.

They’re also pouring money into a study of space-based neutral particle beams, a different form of directed energy that disrupts missiles with streams of subatomic particles traveling close to light speed, as opposed to lasers, whose photons travel at light speed.

“Neutral particle beam like any new technology--the focus will be on technology maturation and also feasibility for that kind of capability. And as you know it traces back to the strategic defense initiative. We think it's got a lot of promise for the missile defense mission and so our focus in FY 20 is to lay the foundation to get to an on orbit demo - I think in FY23,” Missile Defense Agency Deputy Director Rear Adm. Jon Hill said during a press briefing on Tuesday, March 12.

On Wednesday, officials speaking to reporters at the Pentagon voiced guarded confidence that they would result in something that would in fact be deployable. Defense officials said that advances in technology have brought down the potential size and cost of space-based particle beams.

“We’ve come a long way in terms of the technology we use today to where a full, all-up system wouldn’t be the size of three of these conference rooms, right? We now believe we can get it down to a package that we can put on as part of a payload to be placed on orbit,” said a senior defense official, according to DefenseOne. “Power generation, beam formation, the accelerometer that’s required to get there and what it takes to neutralize that beam, that capability has been matured and there are technologies that we can use today to miniaturize.”

Officials, however, stress that the explorative studies do not necessarily mean that the Department will actually deploy a weapon, DefenseOne wrote. “I can’t say that it is going to be at a space and weight requirement that’s going to actually be feasible, but we’re pushing forward with the prototyping and demo,” said an official. The exploration, according to the official, “means we need to understand as a Department, the costs and what it would take to go do that. There’s a lot of folklore…that says it’s either crazy expensive or that it’s free. It needs to be a definitive study.”

“The addition of the neutral particle Beam effort will design, develop, and conduct a feasibility demonstration for a space-based Directed Energy Intercept layer. This future system will offer new kill options for the [Ballistic Missile Defense System] and adds another layer of protection for the homeland,” says a U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s document put out on Tuesday.

Those new options are essential, say defense officials, to hit missiles during their boost phase, as they leave the launch pad and head straight up. During this portion of the flight the missile is most vulnerable, flying at its slowest speed, easily detected by the heat from its engines and incapable of evading interceptors as it accelerates to break out of the Earth’s atmosphere.

“That’s a really hard battle space to go after, right?” said the senior official. “It’s a very short timeline, first to even know where it [meaning the missile] is coming from…It’s less than a couple minutes before it leaves the atmosphere. So you have to have a weapon that’s on station, that’s not going to be taken out by air batteries and so we have been looking at directed energy applications for that. But you have to scale up power to that megawatt class. You’ve got to reduce the weight. You’ve got to have a power source. It’s a challenge, technically.”

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency projected a budget of $9.2 billion in 2021, and $9.1 billion in 2022, continuing the trend of declining funding. One Pentagon-wide effort in lasers that could be used to defeat missiles saw investment slow dramatically. After nearly doubling just the MDA’s budget for directed energy from $109 million in 2018 to $224 million in 2019, the Pentagon as a whole plans to invest only $235 million in the technology in fiscal 2020, Reuters reports.

However, the U.S. administration has done little thinking about the potential for far-reaching military, political and economic ramifications of a U.S. move to break the taboo against weaponizing space. Countries like Russia and China already have in service effective anti-satellite weapons (ASAT). According to the latest Defense Intelligence Agency report, Russia is pursuing laser or so-called Directed Energy Weapons to disrupt, degrade, or damage satellites and their sensors. Prior to July 2018, Russia began delivering a laser weapon system “Peresvet” for Aerospace Forces that likely is intended for an ASAT mission. In public statements, President Vladimir Putin called it a “new type of strategic weapon,” and the Russian Defense Ministry asserted that it is capable of “fighting satellites in orbit.” Russia is also developing an airborne ASAT laser weapon system to use against space-based missile defense sensors.

In addition, there are a number of other highly effective countermeasures, like a wide range of ground based Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, allowing countering GPS, tactical communications, satellite communications, and radars; sophisticated on-orbit inspection and servicing satellites, which could also be potentially used to approach another country’s satellite and conduct an attack that results in temporary or permanent damage. Another system is a ground-based, missile system “PL-19 Nudol” capable of destroying space targets in LEO and ballistic missiles.

As Xinhua notes, China has consistently opposed the weaponization of outer space in its official statements, and, along with Russia, has led the initiative to create an international treaty banning all weapons in space through negotiations within an ad hoc committee of the Conference on Disarmament. On February 12, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the remarks in response to a query about a report released by Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the United States on the day before, which was titled "Challenges to Security in Space." While saying that comments in the DIA report were haphazard and groundless, Hua stressed outer space is an international common, rather than the private property of any particular country, especially the United States.

"For years, China, along with other members in the international community, including Russia, has been actively engaged in finalizing relevant international legal documents to avoid the weaponization of outer space and an arms race there," Hua said. "China has always advocated a peaceful use of the outer space and opposed the weaponization of outer space and an arms race in the outer space."

On June 10, 2014 Russia introduced to the Conference on Disarmament an updated draft of its working paper with China, “Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects (PPWT).” Relevant changes include the omission of the definition of “outer space,” amendments to other definitions and adjustments to Article IV on the right to self-defense.

On December 4 the same year, the UN passed a Russian draft resolution on banning arms race in outer space was adopted during the assembly's 69th session with 126 votes in favor and 4 votes against. Georgia, Israel, Ukraine and the US were the four countries that opposed the draft resolution.

Author: USA Really