It appears the US Space Force already has some justification for its existence as Russia has this week test-fired a new anti-satellite missile, according to US officials.
Chief of the Space Command, Army Gen. James Dickinson, condemned what he called Russia’s making space a “warfighting domain” by its provocative actions in statements issued Wednesday, a day after the Russian test. While details of the alleged test were not immediately given or confirmed by the Russian side or in state media, US Space Command described it as a ground-launched “direct-ascent” missile, as opposed to one fired from orbit.
“Russia has made space a warfighting domain by testing space-based and ground-based weapons intended to target and destroy satellites,” Gen. Dickinson said. “This fact is inconsistent with Moscow’s public claims that Russia seeks to prevent conflict in space.”
He further charged that the Kremlin is seeking to “exploit U.S. reliance on space-based systems” after Russia has demonstrated no less that two specific types of space weapons. These weapons are “capable of destroying satellites in low Earth orbit” according to the Space Command.
“The United States is concerned by Russia’s continued development and deployment of several types of ground-based and space-based anti-satellite weapons.”
As a result of this latest and past tests, Washington has additionally expressed alarm over a mass amount of dangerous space debris created: “If this weapon is tested on an actual satellite or used operationally, it will cause a large debris field that could endanger commercial satellites and irrevocably pollute the space domain,” Space Command said further in its news release.
However, the US statement noted that in Tuesday’s test no Russian weapons hit any ‘dummy’ targets or satellites in orbit, though noting the capability exists.
#Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test. #Russia continues to weaponize #space. @US_SpaceCom stands ready to protect/defend US/allied interests from aggression in the space domain. @DeptofDefense @SpaceForceDoD pic.twitter.com/wfcYqx5UFb
— U.S. Space Command (@US_SpaceCom) December 16, 2020
“We stand ready and committed to deter aggression and defend our Nation and our allies from hostile acts in space,” Dickinson added. “Russia’s persistent testing of these systems demonstrates threats to US and allied space systems are rapidly advancing.”
Russia has in prior statements accused the United States of doing the exact same thing, namely, pursuing the ‘weaponization’ of space while unilaterally pulling out of key ballistic missile and nuclear-related treaties, actions which could trigger a new post-Cold War arms race between to the two powers.