Light Wars: Space-Based Lasers Among Beijing’s Hi-Tech Arms

Friend or foe? Long March rocket carrying an experimental spacecraft. (Reuters)

Friend or foe? Long March rocket carrying an experimental spacecraft. (Reuters)

April 14, 2018 | Source: Asia Times, atimes.com, 10 March 2017, Bill Gertz

Arsenal including electromagnetic railguns and microwave weapons aims to neutralize web of satellites that give US its main strategic edge.

China’s military is developing powerful lasers, electromagnetic railguns and high-power microwave weapons for use in a future “light war” involving space-based attacks on satellites.

Beijing’s push to produce so-called directed-energy weapons aims to neutralize America’s key strategic advantage: the web of intelligence, communication and navigation satellites enabling military strikes of unparalleled precision expeditionary warfare far from US shores.

The idea of a space-based laser gun was disclosed in the journal Chinese Optics in December 2013 by three researchers, Gao Ming-hui, Zeng Yu-quang and Wang Zhi-hong. All work for the Changchun Institute for Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics – the leading center for laser weapons technology.

“In future wars, the development of ASAT [anti-satellite] weapons is very important,” they wrote. “Among those weapons, laser attack system enjoys significant advantages of fast response speed, robust counter-interference performance and a high target destruction rate, especially for a space-based ASAT system. So the space-based laser weapon system will be one of the major ASAT development projects.”

The researchers propose building a 5-ton chemical laser that will be stationed in low-earth orbit as a combat platform capable of destroying satellites in orbit. Given funding by the Chinese military, which is in charge of China’s space program, the satellite-killing laser could be deployed by 2023.