India and China Forge Ahead With Satellite Killing Technology

NewScientist reports of a growing arms race in Asia:

India and China are forging ahead with technology that could be used to kill satellites.

An official from India’s Ministry of Defence announced on 3 January that the country is developing a “kill vehicle” with laser vision that could home in on and destroy satellites in orbit.

And on Tuesday, China announced it had carried out a successful missile defence test the previous day. China did not release details of the test, but said it involved a missile interceptor.

The story indicates that India’s work is being carried out as part of its missile defense system amid tensions with nuclear-armed Pakistan.

Writing in the Asia Times, Peter J. Brown brings some perspective to the China’s anti-missile test:

China has conducted a successful “defensive” anti-missile test with the intent of sending the United States a stern message of disapproval over Washington’s latest arms sales to Taiwan….

The test was a direct response to the US Department of Defense decision on January 6 to sell weapons, including the Patriot III anti-missile system, to Taiwan, Li said in a commentary at the Res Communis web site. Since the sale would integrate Taiwan into the Theater Missile Defense System (TMD) of the US, the Chinese government thought it harmed the sovereignty of China and violated the principle in international law, he wrote. Li declined to respond to questions from Asia Times Online.

Many missile experts contend that what China really carried out was a test of anti-satellite capabilities without actually shooting down a satellite.

“We still do not know exactly what happened, but it the current hypothesis is that China tested the same system that it used to destroy a satellite in 2007, this time in an anti-ballistic missile mode. The technology is essentially the same,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the Nuclear Strategy and Non-proliferation Initiative at the Washington DC-based New America Foundation.

The 2007 satellite destruction produced an enormous cloud of space debris in orbit and sparked protests against space militarization and the creation of additional space junk.

Read the NewScientist story.