An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Drive: U.S. Space Force’s General David Thompson, the service’s second in command, said last week that Russia and China are launching “reversible attacks,” such as electronic warfare jamming, temporarily blinding optics with lasers, and cyber attacks, on U.S. satellites “every single day.” He also disclosed that a small Russian satellite used to conduct an on-orbit anti-satellite weapon test back in 2019 had first gotten so close to an American one that there were concerns an actual attack was imminent.
Thompson, who is Vice Chief of Space Operations, disclosed these details to The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin in an interview on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum, which ran from Nov. 19 to 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in Canada. The forum opened just four days after a Russian anti-satellite weapon test involving a ground-launched interceptor, which destroyed a defunct Soviet-era electronic intelligence satellite and created a cloud of debris that presents a risk to the International Space Station (ISS). That test drew widespread condemnation, including from the U.S. government, and prompted renewed discussion about potential future conflicts in space.
“The threats are really growing and expanding every single day. And it’s really an evolution of activity that’s been happening for a long time,” Thompson, told Rogin. “We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.” “Right now, Space Force is dealing with what Thompson calls ‘reversible attacks’ on U.S. government satellites (meaning attacks that don’t permanently damage the satellites) ‘every single day,'” according to Rogin. “Both China and Russia are regularly attacking U.S. satellites with non-kinetic means, including lasers, radio frequency jammers, and cyber attacks, he said.” […] Thompson’s assertion that these kinds of attacks are occurring with extreme frequency is new. It underscores the rapid development and fielding by Russia and China, among others, of a wide variety of anti-satellite capabilities, something the U.S. military has called increasing attention to in recent years. “The Chinese are actually well ahead [of Russia],” Thompson told Rogin. “They’re fielding operational systems at an incredible rate.”
“Thompson could not confirm or deny whether any American satellites had actually been damaged in a Russian or Chinese attack,” the report adds. “[H]e told Rogin that even if such a thing had occurred, that very fact would be classified.”
He did, however, provide new details about the incident in 2019 where a small Russian satellite released a projectile in one on-orbit anti-satellite weapon test. According to The Drive, “Russia’s satellite had first got in very close to a U.S. ‘national security satellite’ and that ‘the U.S. government didn’t know whether it was attacking or not.'”
“It maneuvered close, it maneuvered dangerously, it maneuvered threateningly so that they were coming close enough that there was a concern of collision,” Thompson said. “So clearly, the Russians were sending us a message.”