A Foreword to Space Threat Assessment 2020

Much is said these days about the possibility of conflict in space during, before, or perhaps, instead of conflict on land, at sea, or in the air. Why is this the case?

The subject is discussed as though it emerged in the last 13 years since the Chinese demonstration of a kinetic ASAT in 2007. In fact, the United States was concerned in 1957 that Sputnik represented a precursor to space-based nuclear weapons. An ASAT program started in the United States in 1958, and the Soviets did similarly. Both superpowers deployed several ASAT systems and performed orbital tests. Nonetheless, fear on both sides of a serious threat of conflict in space did not emerge until recently. Both the Soviets and the United States understood that the satellites of “National Technical Means” were stabilizing and were keys to de-escalation should a conflict occur. This view changed after the First Gulf War, when space systems moved from being primarily strategic systems to tactical ones providing near real-time support to tactical forces. By that time, the satellites of the Department of Defense and of the Intelligence Community operated and reported almost instantly, and the military services developed the equipment and techniques to acquire, analyze, and distribute space system information very quickly.

Following the First Gulf War, a Russian analysis of the rapid American success noted the efficacy of precision weapons and real-time intelligence. Much of this capability depended on space systems and spurred the Russians and Chinese to a sustained program to develop ASAT capabilities–not only those for physical attack but cyber and electronic attacks as well. In recent years, we have read Russian and Chinese doctrine explaining the importance of ASAT capabilities, and we have seen systems deployed to carry them out.

The situation we confront today was inevitable. Capability is always met with counter-capability. In recognition of this need to defend and to increase our space power in the face of such threats, the United States has wisely created the Space Force and the U.S. Space Command. This is where the people who will design, build, and operate our military space systems reside and where personnel will be trained, careers managed, doctrine developed, and a myriad other elements of a military force undertaken.

Several years ago, an Army general gave a speech where he said, “every company commander depends on space, and takes it for granted.” What a challenge for our Space Force and Space Command to assure that our military is served at every level of command without failing. Aerospace

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