New Delhi, April 14
China has doubled its space assets for intelligence gathering and surveillance over the past four years. It can now track and target forces of other countries worldwide, especially in the Indo-Pacific.
Surveillance fleet has 250 systems
- China’s ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) satellite fleet now contains of over 250 systems
- The number is second only to the US with China’s in-orbit systems doubling since 2018
This has been stated by the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in its report “Challenges to Security in Space, 2022”. “As of January 2022, China’s ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) satellite fleet contained over 250 systems—a number second only to the US, and nearly doubling China’s in-orbit systems since 2018,” the report said.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) owns and operates about half of the world’s
ISR systems, most of which could support monitoring, tracking and targeting of the US and allied forces worldwide, especially throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
These satellites also allow the PLA to monitor potential regional flashpoints, including the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, Indian Ocean and the South China Sea, said the report that focuses on the growing space capabilities of China and Russia.
On China, it says recent improvements in space-based ISR capabilities emphasise the development, procurement and use of increasingly capable satellites. “Space capabilities will probably enhance potential PLA military operations farther from the Chinese coast,” it added.
China owns and operates over 60 communications satellites, at least four of which are dedicated to military use. Future data relay satellites could convey targeting data to Chinese military.
The PLA considers electronic warfare (EW) capabilities to be critical for modern warfare, and its doctrine emphasises using EW to suppress or deceive enemy. PLA routinely incorporates in its exercises jamming and anti-jamming techniques that are probably intended to deny multiple space-based communication, radar systems and GPS navigation support to military movement and precision-guided munitions employment. China is probably developing jammers that could interfere with satellites by denying imagery.
The DIA’s report details Chinese and Russian efforts to establish space forces and expand space weapon capabilities. These factors are contributing to increased militarisation of the space domain.
The loss of space-based communication and navigation services for any military could have a devastating impact during a conflict.
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