Chinese military planning cyber attacks against U.S. satellites and computer systems to degrade Pentagon’s superiority

( The Chinese military plans to target U.S. satellites and computer systems at the beginning of a future conflict with space-based weapons and cyber attacks, the Washington Times reported Oct. 15.

The paper cited a soon-to-be-released report from the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which it said provided new details regarding Beijing’s space-based weapons programs and cyber military strategies aimed at destroying or hacking U.S. satellites while hampering American military activities worldwide.

“China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers and directed energy weapons,” a late draft of the commission’s annual report said, according to the Times. “China’s nuclear arsenal also provides an inherent anti-satellite capability.”

In addition, People’s Liberation Army planners say they will employ a combination of kinetic, electronic and cyber attacks against satellites and ground support infrastructure in any conflict.

The Times, citing the report, said that the Chinese are developing a pair of direct-ascent missiles that are fired from ground batteries and are capable of hitting satellites in lower and higher orbits – the SC-19 and DN-2. The PLA carried out anti-satellite missile tests as recently as last year, the Times reported.

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According to the report the higher orbit DN-2 can hit U.S. Global Positioning Satellites but looks to be better suited to blow up American intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance satellites, the Times said, adding that, according to the congressional report, the missile could be deployable in five to 10 years.

For space-based weapons, China’s military is developing co-orbital anti-satellite weapons, the report noted.

“These systems consist of a satellite armed with a weapon such as an explosive charge, fragmentation device, kinetic energy weapon, laser, radio frequency weapon, jammer or robotic arm,” the report said.

The co-orbital systems are capable of maneuvering in space close to satellite targets and then deploy weapons aimed at destroying them or disabling them.

“In 2008, a Chinese miniature imaging satellite passed within 28 miles of the International Space Station with no notification, in what the report said was a simulated co-orbital anti-satellite attack,” the Times reported.

In addition, the PLA is planning cyber attacks to seize control of satellites by hacking into the microwave signals they use. Chinese military planners and researchers have documented that during any conflict the PLA would “attempt to conduct computer network attacks against U.S. satellites and ground-based facilities that interact with U.S. satellites,” said the report.

“If executed successfully, such attacks could significantly threaten U.S. information superiority, particularly if they are conducted against satellites with sensitive military and intelligence functions,” the report noted. “For example, access to a satellite’s controls could allow an attacker to damage or destroy the satellite; deny, degrade, or manipulate its transmissions; or access its capabilities or the information, such as imagery, that can be gained through its sensors.”

The congressional report also said that hackers tied to China likely were behind a number of computer attacks against American space assets. Included in those attacks was a hack of National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration satellite and weather related systems.

The report said Chinese hackers probably were behind several computer attacks against U.S. space assets, including a September 2014 hack of National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration satellite and weather service systems.

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