Top US general warns of potential for conflict in space with Russia and China

The heads of Russia and China’s space programs have been rapidly expanding their countries’ orbital capabilities, according to General Stephen Whiting, who leads the US Space Command.

Whiting said the possibility of a conflict in space is no longer just theoretical. Speaking at the 39th Space Symposium at the command’s headquarters in Colorado Springs on Tuesday, Whiting painted a concerning picture of Russian and Chinese orbital capabilities.
China has established a “kill web over the Pacific Ocean” to detect, track and target US and allied military assets, Whiting said, describing Beijing’s efforts as progressing at a “breathtaking pace.” Since 2018, Russia has doubled and China has tripled the number of their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellites in orbit, while also testing and deploying anti-satellite weapons. Meanwhile, the US has “the world’s best space architectures,” but its military constellations are “optimized for a benign environment,” he said.

Whiting said Russian and Chinese space weapons “threaten our modern way of life and how we defend this nation, and we must be able to deter and counter these threats if needed to achieve space superiority.” The general described a possible armed conflict in space as “economically and environmentally devastating, perhaps for decades,” and said the US wants to maintain a state of “enduring competition” instead.
The US is already collaborating with Canada, Australia and the UK on Operation Olympic Defender, a program aimed at “optimizing space operations,” according to the Space Command. Whiting announced that Germany, France and New Zealand have been invited to join as well.
He also revealed the command’s new Capability Assessment and Validation Environment has achieved “minimum viable capability.” The modeling and simulation lab will enable the US military to “derive better approaches to deterring and planning operations for a war that’s never happened, and a war we don’t want to happen,” he said.
Recently, Washington accused Moscow of having undisclosed anti-satellite capabilities, possibly nuclear in nature. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the US claims were “unfounded” and intended to manipulate arms control talks. The Russian embassy in Washington has also accused the US of using “Russophobic slogans” to mask its own plans to militarize space.