New Star Wars Plan: Pentagon Rushes to Counter Threats in Orbit

New Star Wars Plan: Pentagon Rushes to Counter Threats in Orbit

The Pentagon is rushing to expand its capacity to wage war in space, convinced that rapid advances by China and Russia in space-based operations pose a growing threat to U.S. troops and other military assets on the ground and American satellites in orbit.

Details of the push by the Pentagon remain highly classified. But Defense Department officials have increasingly acknowledged that the initiative reflects a major shift in military operations as space increasingly becomes a battleground.

No longer will the United States simply rely on military satellites to communicate, navigate and track and target terrestrial threats, tools that for decades have given the Pentagon a major advantage in conflicts.

Instead, the Defense Department is looking to acquire a new generation of ground- and space-based tools that will allow it to defend its satellite network from attack and, if necessary, to disrupt or disable enemy spacecraft in orbit, Pentagon officials have said in a series of interviews, speeches and recent statements.

The strategy differs fundamentally from previous military programs in space by expanding the range of offensive capabilities — a far cry from the never-built 1980s-era Strategic Defense Initiative proposal, for example, which was focused on using satellites to protect the U.S. from nuclear missile strikes.

“We must protect our space capabilities while also being able to deny an adversary the hostile use of its space capabilities,” Gen. Chance Saltzman, the chief of space operations at the Space Force, the agency created in 2019 as a new division of the Air Force Department to lead the effort, said in March. “Because if we do not have space, we lose.”

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