By Duncan Smith
The U.S. Space Force’s second-in-command called out Russia for continuing to militarize space during the coronavirus pandemic.
In comments to a forum hosted by a think tank, Lt. Gen. David Thompson, USSF vice commander, blasted Russia for its “increasing penchant for unsafe and what I would consider unacceptable behavior in space.”
“Unfortunately in the case of the Russians, their increasing penchant for unsafe and what I would consider unacceptable behavior in space has not slowed down,” Thompson said during the forum, which was hosted by the Air Force-connected Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
“I can’t tell you what they’re doing with their crews and their individuals, but based on their macro-level activities, their cadence has certainly not slowed down,” he said.
Thompson’s comments come just weeks after the US Space Command claimed Russia had tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (DA-ASAT) missile, which USSF Chief of Operations and SPACECOM Commander Gen. John Raymond called “further proof of Russia’s hypocritical advocacy of outer space arms control proposals designed to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting their counterspace weapons programs.”
The test, according to The Diplomat, involved the PL-19/Nudol system, a missile defense system that has guarded European Russia from ballistic missile attack from its base at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome for more than 25 years.
Russia isn’t the only country testing anti-satellite weapons.
In March 2019, Thompson, who was still an Air Force general at the time, acknowledged that U.S. intelligence agencies had detected that India conducted an ASAT test.
Once the launch was detected, “we immediately started providing notification to satellite operators,” Thompson said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces.
He said the 11th Space Warning Squadron at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, detected the launch.
China has also tested anti-satellite weapons, destroying an aged weather satellite in 2007.
NASA Administrator James Bridenstine said there is a need for better space situational awareness and debris tracking. He warned the problem could get worse if more countries start testing anti-satellite weapons. “Debris ends up being there for a long time,” Bridenstine said. “If we wreck space, we’re not getting it back.”
Also last year, Military & Aerospace Electronics reported Beijing may deploy anti-satellite lasers by this year. Russia is also planning such weapons.
It could be the United States already has them, though. In 2006, New Scientist reported that the Pentagon was already planning to develop them, though they would be ground-based.