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U.S. Space Force General Details Strategy U.S. Is Using To Counteract Chinese Aggression In Race For Space Dominance

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FL, UNITED STATES - 2019/08/22: A United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket in space at complex 37 in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the second GPS III Magellan spacecraft to a medium earth orbit for the U.S. Air Force.
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General David Thompson, Vice Chief of Space Operations, United States Space Force, told Fox News on Sunday that while China is aggressively challenging U.S. dominance in space, the U.S. is launching more lower-cost satellites to deter any attacks on American satellites in space.

“China is a tremendous threat,” Thompson said, “Now, I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that they will be the leader in space by the end of the decade, but they’re on an incredible pace. We are still the best in the world in space. Our capabilities are the best in the world in space, but they’re moving aggressively, they’re moving quickly, and we need to adapt our approach. We need to adapt what we do and how we do it in order to keep pace and outpace them. But they are a threat. They can threaten us kinetically.”

Thompson warned that China has “robots in space that conduct attacks” and “they can conduct jamming attacks and laser dazzling attacks” in addition to having “a full suite of cyber capabilities.”

When asked by anchor Chris Wallace if China could get to a point where they could “take out U.S. sensors and thereby have a first strike offensive capability,” Thompson responded, “I would say that’s a potential.”

“That’s one of the reasons the Space Force was created, to understand that threat, to design tactics and techniques, to design counters to that threat, to design a system that provides for intelligence collection and awareness and understanding,” Thompson said. “So that just as we do in other domains, we know their capabilities, we know their tactics, we know their systems, and we create counters. And it’s our job in the Space Force to ensure, should they propose to attack us with something like a space robot or other things, we have counter measures, we have tactics, and we have means to employ to prevent that attack from being successful.”

Wallace later asked about the U.S. “putting more, lower cost satellites up” in space and whether that was part of a strategy.

“Exactly right,” Thompson responded. “The, you know, the term we use is resilience, and we make it such that it’s too hard, too expensive, and too unlikely that they’ll succeed in creating a — the effect they want because, rather than the past, when we’ve had a small number of very sophisticated, very capable satellites, we now intend to field more and more and more lower-cost, lower-capable that provide, in aggregate, the same capability. Therefore, there’s not as much value in attempting to attacking them in space.”

WATCH:

TRANSCRIPT:

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: This week the Biden administration laid out its approach to space policy with a focus on national security given provocative actions by countries like China and Russia. Earlier, I discussed those threats with General David Thompson, the vice chief of operations for the U.S. Space Force. General Thompson, welcome.

GENERAL DAVID THOMPSON, VICE CHIEF OF SPACE OPERATIONS, UNITED STATES SPACE FORCE: Good morning. Great to be here.

WALLACE: Your boss, General Raymond, compares space to the wild west. Just how wild is the situation in space?

THOMPSON: Well, first of all let me say that it’s an incredibly growing and dynamic domain, and — and some of that contributes to what you’ll call the wildness of — of space. In the past two years alone, the number of active satellites in space has doubled. It’s gone to nearly 5,000 things. Now, a lot of energy is in the — in the commercial investment and innovation we see, but there aren’t really an agreed to international set of standards and norms of behavior that are expected in space.

WALLACE: Yes, I want to pick up on that. If the Space Force is the new sheriff in town, how do you keep law and order in that kind of situation, and what constitutes an act of war in space?

THOMPSON: So, the answer — let me start there, the answer to what constitutes an act of war in space is not really clear — I’ll say clearly defined or understood and perhaps there’s been less thinking in that — and then in other areas and other domains. What we are not, though, is we are not the sheriff in town, we are a military force, but we firmly advocate for regulation and conduct and standards of norms behavior that everybody should follow and that we should follow as well.

WALLACE: And does anyone — the other nations, especially China, especially Russia, do they listen to us in that area?

THOMPSON: There are conversations ongoing. They put forward proposals as well. So do we. But things have not proceeded very — very far in the recent past. We’ve tried to facilitate it. It’s really under the leadership of the Department of State. But, recently, the Secretary of Defense outlined what I’ll call five tenets of responsible behavior that we apply to, that everybody else should. Conduct your space operations in a safe manner. Don’t generate long-lived debris. Don’t create harmful [and unfair] interference. Communicate your intentions. And operate safely in the vicinity of others. Those are the kinds of tenets — tenets and expertise that we should — or expectations that we should all adhere to, but they aren’t commonly accepted or adhered to yet in space.

WALLACE: China is putting up satellites at twice the rate that the U.S. is now.

THOMPSON: Correct.

WALLACE: And at that pace, by the end of the decade, they will replace the U.S. as the preeminent power in space. When you look at, you know, the hypersonic missiles, when you look at satellites with robotic arms, just how much of a threat is China to the U.S. and to the rules of the road in space?

THOMPSON: So, China is a tremendous threat, as you noted. Now, I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that they will be the leader in space by the end of the decade, but they’re on an incredible pace. We are still the best in the world in space. Our capabilities are the best in the world in space, but they’re moving aggressively, they’re moving quickly, and we need to adapt our approach. We need to adapt what we do and how we do it in order to keep pace and outpace them. But they are a threat. They can threaten us kinetically, like you said. They — the Russians on the 15th of November conducted a destructive anti-satellite test. The Chinese conducted a similar test in 2007. They have robots in space that conduct attacks. They can conduct jamming attacks and laser dazzling attacks. They have a full suite of cyber capabilities. Absolutely an incredible threat that we have to address now and in the future.

WALLACE: Talking first of all about China. If they continue putting satellites up at — at — at the speed they are, they have a — a satellite with a robotic arm. Could they eventually get to a point where they could take out U.S. sensors and thereby have a first strike offensive capability?

THOMPSON: So, I would say that’s a potential. That’s one of the reasons the Space Force was created, to understand that threat, to design tactics and techniques, to design counters to that threat, to design a system that provides for intelligence collection and awareness and understanding. So that just as we do in other domains, we know their capabilities, we know their tactics, we know their systems, and we create counters. And it’s our job in the Space Force to ensure, should they propose to attack us with something like a space robot or other things, we have counter measures, we have tactics, and we have means to employ to prevent that attack from being successful.

WALLACE: Meanwhile, you talked about Russia. They, in the last few weeks, launched a missile that took out one of their own defunct satellites and created 1,500 pieces of debris in a very crowded neighborhood.

THOMPSON: They did.

WALLACE: How threatening is that?

THOMPSON: It was incredibly dangerous and irresponsible act. In fact, they conducted in an altitude over the North Pole that means for years to come that debris will be present, and it will eventually filter down and re-enter the atmosphere. But as it does, it has the potential to threaten every single satellite at altitudes below that, including the International Space Station, and, interesting enough, the Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station. So, in that sense, it’s a dangerous behavior that threatens our use of the domain. What we also need to do, however, is design new space systems that recognize that’s a possible threat and make it less productive and valuable to try to conduct that sort of attacking (ph).

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one aspect of that, because one of the things that we’re doing is putting more, lower-cost satellites up. And is the idea that you create this, sort of, swarm of satellites and you put too many targets in the — in space for them to shoot?

THOMPSON: Exactly right. The, you know, the term we use is resilience, and we make is such that it’s too hard, too expensive, and too unlikely that they’ll succeed in creating a — the effect they want because, rather than the past, when we’ve had a small number of very sophisticated, very capable satellites, we now intend to field more and more and more lower-cost, lower-capable that provide, in aggregate, the same capability. Therefore, there’s not as much value in attempting to attacking them in space.

WALLACE: Some of the most innovative work being done in space now is by private companies.

THOMPSON: Absolutely.

WALLACE: Like SpaceX, like Virgin Orbit. What kind of a partnership does the Space Force either have or hope to develop with these private companies?

THOMPSON: We both have partnerships and we’re going to develop more. The first is, as these new commercial services come online, if they’re of value to the Space Force, if they’re of value to our joint force, we’re going to use them directly for our benefit. The second is that innovation and creativity we see in their technology and the way they operate, if we can leverage and apply them to military missions, we’ll do that as well. And then the third piece is, we’re actually partnering with them and sharing information on mission requirements, mission design, cost and threats and we’re asking them to develop their own solutions to our problems as we do as well to create a new relationship that says, here’s a problem, here’s a potential solution, employ the power and innovation of your ideas alongside ours to come up with the best source of space capabilities for the nation.

WALLACE: Finally, when President Trump directed the Pentagon to start the Space Force back in 2018, it became the — the butt of some pop culture jokes. I want you to take a look at some of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, “THE LATE SHOW” (August 10, 2018): Tonight, there’s big news about Space Force.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (February 2, 2021): Wow, Space Force. It’s the plane of today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: So, how do you react to that and how seriously is the Space Force being taken by our adversaries now?

THOMPSON: So, I think as people more fully understand exactly who we are, what we are, how we contribute to the security of the nation, I think absolutely they’re taking us more seriously. We certainly see energy and desire out of the young people of the nation to join and participate. I would say that humor is a fundamental avenue of the human society and always has been a part of American culture. If we can’t take a joke, if we can’t accept some of the humor like that, then we’re probably not prepared to face the greater challenges we need, and we’re absolutely up to those challenges.

WALLACE: And I gather from what you say that China and Russia are not laughing. General Thompson, thank you so much for talking with us.

THOMPSON: If I may, Mr. Wallace, thanks. Let me say that speaking for myself, speaking for General Raymond, and I know I’m speaking for the 13,000 guardians, it remains an honor and a privilege to serve the nation and its people.

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