Military

China Moving Quickly To Boost Space Capabilities, General Says

Gen. Stephen Whiting at Space Symposium in April. Image: Space Force

China is advancing so “breathtakingly fast” in space that America is at risk of losing its advantage if officials don’t prioritize investment in the national security space architecture, the chief of US Space Command told Congress on Thursday. 

When asked what keeps him up at night, Gen. Stephen Whiting, who took the reins of Space Command in January, had only one answer: The People’s Republic of China. 

“The way China has clinically studied us and our dependence on space…and now are rapidly building systems to hold that architecture at risk,” he said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

What was it made for? Whiting talked about a “vulnerability window” for America’s space assets, many of which were built for a benign environment. But that’s not the case anymore: China and Russia have counterspace capabilities designed to target US assets—especially secure communications, PNT, and missile warning. Until the military has finished hardening those targets to protect them from attacks, there is a window in which an adversary could successfully target them.

Whiting also predicted Russia’s significant ground losses in Ukraine could force the nation to target assets in orbit to gain an advantage on Earth. “Their losses in the Ukraine conflict will take years to rebuild in terms of terrestrial offensive capabilities, which will likely encourage Russia to become more reliant on nuclear, cyber, and space capabilities,” he wrote in prepared testimony.

It takes two: The general emphasized that commercial space companies are a critical part of keeping space safe, specifically highlighting the plan for a Commercial Augmentation Space Reserve to draw on private space companies in times of conflict.

“The US commercial space industry is not just an advantage in space, it is an advantage for this nation, period, and it’s an advantage that’s widening over our competitors,” he said. 

In the twilight zone: We’d be remiss for not pointing out that senators held a hearing on the FY25 defense authorization while Congress has yet to pass a budget for FY24. 

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