PENTAGON – The United States “maintains a lead” over Russia and China in military space capabilities, but is challenged by the pace of their development, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephen Kitay told reporters on Wednesday.
“We are still ahead of them, but we are absolutely at risk with the pace that they are developing these capabilities. These are very serious threats,” Kitay said, presenting the Pentagon’s space strategy, which stipulates that China and Russia have “weaponized space” and turned it into a warfighting domain, according to RIA Novosti.
“They present the greatest strategic threat due to their development, testing, and deployment of counter-space capabilities and their associated military doctrine for employment in conflict extending to space,” the document added.
Kitay noted that the US seeks to maintain space superiority, “which includes having a freedom of operation in the domain, assuring these capabilities to our warfighters throughout the conflict and being able to protect and offend against hostile space activities”.
Among threats the US must purportedly be prepared for, he mentioned projectile firing satellites, nuclear weapons and attempts to jam space systems. The senior official also told reporters that the US believes that outer space is currently the main theater of potential conflict.
“Outer space has emerged as a key arena of potential conflict in an era of great power competition,” Kitay said, adding, “China and Russia have weaponized space and turned it into a war fighting domain. Their actions pose the greatest strategic threat with the ongoing development, testing and deployment counter space systems and the associated military doctrine designed to hold allied and US space systems at risk.”
In August 2019, the United States took a major step toward creating a US Space Force by officially launching its newest military branch, the US Space Command.
In July 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron established a space command by approving a division within his country’s air force that will together become the nation’s Air and Space Force. Russia, amid Washington’s moves, has been constantly calling on the US to stop the militarization of space, highlighting that there is an urgent need to prevent an arms race in space.
In late May, the Russian Ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, argued that “Russia is doing everything possible to prevent the Americans who seek with the support of their NATO allies to turn space into a combat zone and battleground for possible clashes between our nations”. Antonov noted that Russia’s attempts to convince the US to “work together to prevent an arms race in space and to refrain from deploying any weapons there” have failed.
In a similar manner, the Chinese government has criticized US military space policy, with Chinese Defenсe Ministry recently warning that the US and other countries that have created space military forces, could “trigger an arms race in space and in the future negatively affect global strategic stability”.