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China and Russia are militarizing space with 'energy weapons' and anti-satellite missiles: Pentagon

Key Points
  • Both China and Russia, according to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, are developing military capabilities in space, from laser weapons to ground-based anti-satellite missiles.
  • The agency acts as the Pentagon's top intelligence arm.
  • DIA's report said China "is second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites."
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the U.S. Air Force's first GPS III satellite.
SpaceX

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) this week made an extensive report public about military expansion in space, especially focusing on the increasing "weaponization of space" by China and Russia.

DIA, which acts as the Pentagon's top intelligence arm, explains in detail "key counterspace concepts" in the report, including: Cyberspace threats, "directed energy weapons," and threats to orbital space systems. Both China and Russia, according to the intelligence report, are developing these capabilities – from laser weapons to ground-based anti-satellite missiles.

In October, CNBC learned that a never-before-seen Russian missile was a mock-up of an anti-satellite weapon that will be ready for warfare by 2022. Images of the mysterious missile on a modified Russian MiG-31, a supersonic near-space interceptor, appeared in mid-September.

The Russian anti-satellite weapon, which is attached to a space launch vehicle, is expected to target communication and imagery satellites in low Earth orbit, according to one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. For reference, the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope travel in low Earth orbit. Russia has successfully tested the anti-satellite missile system several times.

The DIA report said China "is second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites." Additionally, China is seeking to "rapidly" grow its presence in space, despite officially advocating "for peaceful use of space," the report said. Meanwhile, China has an operational ground-based anti-satellite missile intended to target assets in low Earth orbit Additionally, Beijing is expected to field a ground-based laser weapon that can counter low-orbit space-based sensors by 2020.

Here is the full "challenges to security in space" report published by the Defense Intelligence Agency: