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Deployment of Space Weapons

Posted by: Andy Hill - Wed Apr 27, 2005 1:38 pm
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Deployment of Space Weapons 
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Post    Posted on: Fri Jun 17, 2005 2:48 pm
Well, Andy, I have to agree with you that the press coverage regarding this issue is probably going to contribute to making things worse...

http://www.space.com/news/050617_space_warfare.html

...I typcially expect better from space.com, but it seems to me that the editor (or perhaps it was the writer) went a little "tabloid" on this article. The selection of quotes seems almost deliberately orchestrated for maximum sensationalism and fearmongering effect.

However, this article purports to be the first in a series, so perhaps we should take a "wait and see" approach. I must say I am not optimistic at this point, though.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:21 am
I would like to know your opinions about this issue, not the article. I find it hard to 'read' your opinions in your posts :P no offence off course, its just me :)


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 18, 2005 10:28 am
SawSS1Jun21 wrote:
http://www.space.com/news/050617_space_warfare.html

...I typcially expect better from space.com, but it seems to me that the editor (or perhaps it was the writer) went a little "tabloid" on this article. The selection of quotes seems almost deliberately orchestrated for maximum sensationalism and fearmongering effect.


Yes I must admit that SPACE.com is normally not so one sided in is reporting, this article like a lot of others suffer from a number of deficiencies.

Firstly it presents people's opinions that space will be weoponised as being the only logical conclusion without hardly any contary arguments to balance the debate (or even start one). The reason I think that this happens is that an article suggesting that the US will never deploy space weapons is not so eye-catching or newsworthy. Its why tabloid newspapers are filled with sensationalism, they print what sells newspapers not what is necessarily correct.

Secondly it assumes that the "Bush overhaul in space policy" will result in a further militarisation of space with new weapons. This is not the case at all, the current administration may decide that it would not be a good idea to deploy further millitary assets in space at this time (no matter how much they want to) due to the expense and political fallout.

I find it difficult to give credibility to an article that has some idiot arguing that other countries would not deploy their own space weapons if the US did. The reason for this :- the US are the good guys and would only be maintaining the staus quo and not be seen as escalating the situation, yeah right. Honestly some people have their head stuck up their own arse so far they must think they are on a different planet.

It is an interesting point that the consequencies of space weapons are not discusssed in any detail just that it is enevitable. A conflict where 2 sides start shooting up satellites might result in enough space debris to deny space access to everyone for decades. Not to mention the accidental loss of civillian space hardware that the world has come to rely on.

If a country is not as technically advanced as the US it could pepper orbit with low cost fragmentation rockets which would take out all space hardware, resulting in a conventioal war having to be fought. A country not dependant upon space hardware has an advantage in such a conflict. The US, although bigger with more toys, might not cope so well if it were forced to fight a much lower tech war which its troops have not been trained for. Dependancy always brings its problems.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 20, 2005 1:08 pm
I'm really rather surprised at Space.com for that article. They're run-of-the-mill in publications such as AW&ST and Aerospace America -- both of which (and especially the former) are focused on the aerospace establishment, and therefore the military. But for a completely civilian publication (and Leonard David -- I seem to remember that he does quite well in other articles) to publish an article that basically quotes the USAF Space Command policy is very unusual.

Andy: you bring up a very old and very interesting point: the worst nightmare of military planners for decades has not been a "conventional" nuclear attack, a "dirty" nuke nor even a neutron bomb. Their worst nightmare has been an attack that made use of a continent-scale EMP weapon. Although, currently, the armed forces could still make do -- assuming that the "networking" of the military doesn't take place too rapidly.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 20, 2005 2:43 pm
Hmm... In my recent discussions with folk in the 'biz,' it seems that the "orbit-to-surface" weapons model has been de-emphasised recently. This could mean either they're doing it (and thus unable to talk about it) or that they are going in a different direction entirely. It may be that that a paradigm shift is in the works. I am told that the accuracy of GPS-guided munitions is now in the centimeter range, and that planners are beginning to consider GPS-guided munitions in the sub-100 pound category; these are said to be intended for aircraft-deployment. This way you could dump a bunch of these things over a battlefield, and your small-unit commanders would have a precision-guided artillery strike every minute for a couple of hours during the action. As a former infantryman, I can tell you that this is extremely attractive.

Couple this with the increasing interest in larger UAV platforms, and it seems that perhaps we're looking at some contingency planning centered around Cowboy's scenario above... i.e. let's say that you have only a handful of A-bombs and are essentially lacking the capacity to launch them at intercontinental targets; let's assume that you can get them pretty high into suborbital space, and let's say that you have specific concern surrounding the military activities of a particular western superpower with considerable space-based C3I resources. Let's also assume that you are not party to any nuclear weapons treaties which might preclude the detonation of a device in space. This provides you with the ability to force the tech-heavy superpower to fight you blind and dumb on your own terrain, effectively turning back the clock to WWII. And you don't even have bust a nuke outside your own borders to do it, you just wait until all the spybirds are over your backyard, then POW! EMP flambe. Thus, you justify the expense of building the Device, you have a plan for using it which won't immediately authorize your opponent to bring the Tridents or the Nuclear Tomahawks down on you, and you derive singular and fairly spectacular advantage from using them. Sound like it fits any known geopolitical situation? I can't believe I didn't see this one before, thanks Cowboy!

Now if you are the above-mentioned unnamed western superpower, you need a means of restoring that advantage to a local theater which is cheaper than launching new satellites. Gentlemen, I give you the high-altitude UAV plafform: C3I for the battlefield neighborhood without the predictable transit of orbital assets, and if a few get cooked, we can send out two or three more for less money than a pegasus launch. If the assets are in theater already, they have a faster deployment time, too.

Perhaps all the space-weapons press is a smoke screen? No way to know for sure; unless you are permitted to know, in which case you can't say.

Stefan:

My opinion? I think space-based weaponry is simple to accomplish, but not practical in most applications. I think most spacefaring powers have either built or prototyped hardware to do so. I hope that everyone decides that it isn't worth the effort/expense. I expect that the few cases where it represents a military advantage will be irresistible to the people whom are capable of calling for such activity. Thus, I THINK it will happen, it won't be particularly spectacular (i.e. no space-based lasers), but I HOPE that space is/becomes/remains a weapons-free zone.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:37 pm
SawSS1Jun21 explained the EMP scenario perfectly. Except remember this: the nuke would be a few dozen orders of magnitude more dangerous if detonated over the "unnamed western superpower" in question. The electrical infrastructure (traffic signals, telephone lines, TV, the Internet, cars, airplanes, and water pumps -- just for starters), along with all forms of communication and the entire national economy would simply and instantly implode. Forget war, man: I'm talking survival.

Besides, you don't need an EMP to toast a satellites, as the list shows (in descending order of reliability):

Method 1: send up a couple dozen cheap hunter-killer sats of your own that are built to look like either spy sats or comm sats. If you're really patient, send them up over an extended period of time, and let the US forget about them. Slowly move them in a position not actually close to their targets, but so that they can switch orbits and get close to their targets in something under 20 minutes -- five is more practical (the faster, the better). You're gonna need some pretty fancy onboard software to control 'em, though, 'cause you sure as hell don't want a steady stream of signals coming from the ground. Once they get in range, kill all the enemy sats at once. If you're really good, they'll be hard-pressed to figure out exactly what happened.

A variation on this method is to replace the H/K sats with jammer sats (a *lot* harder, as most sat-to-ground communication is done via laser).

Method 2: Physically toast the enemy sats with a powerful, ground-based microwave beam weapon. Lower-class devices are already nearing the deployment phase, with the intention of defending airports against shoulder-launched SAMs. The problem with this is that the enemy will be more than happy to move all his assets out of range of your weaponry in about thirty seconds flat: remember that to increase their effectiveness, all satellites carry maneuvering fuel. And they'll proceed to send a large fleet of big beefy bombers over to turn your spiffy overgrown RadaRange into a nice, geometrically perfect crater.

Method 3: Launch nukes against the satellites. The hitch: in order to avoid flattening your entire country from excess rocket exhaust (satellites are pretty far apart, so with small weapons you need a lot of them), you basically are forced to use full-sized strategic nukes. And if one of those babies goes up, NOBODY cares where it's going. Every nation in the world with the capability (which is pretty much all of 'em) will happily proceed to turn your little hunk of dirt into a solid glass sheet. Even the launch of smaller tactical nukes is very, very risky.

Method 4: Toss up a bunch of frag charges in the way of the enemy sats. Cheap and very effective -- if you catch the enemy sat, which you won't. By the time your rocket actually gets to altitude, the enemy will have that satellite well out of its way.

***

Believe it or not, the military is currently planning on vastly reducing its dependency on GPS for this very reason. Besides all that, the EWACS airplanes currently in service, along with our UAV recce drones and the few spyplanes still in service can do a pretty decent job of battlefield control if the GPS satellites were to suddenly disappear.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 10, 2005 2:34 pm
spacecowboy wrote:
Believe it or not, the military is currently planning on vastly reducing its dependency on GPS for this very reason. Besides all that, the EWACS airplanes currently in service, along with our UAV recce drones and the few spyplanes still in service can do a pretty decent job of battlefield control if the GPS satellites were to suddenly disappear.


I spoke to someone recently who was involved with an Army training exercise and they discovered that the soldiers had difficulty in reading maps because they had become reliant on hand held GPS and did not practice their map reading skills. Indeed some of the more enterprising commanders had actually issued their men with GPS sets they had bought with their own money so that they performed better in the field. On subsequent exercises all such devices were confiscated prior to its commencement that resulted in a number of soldiers becoming lost or late for objectives. I'm not surprised the military is looking to reduce dependancy, technology is a 2 edged sword.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Jul 13, 2005 1:01 pm
Ooh! Ooh! Arthur C. Clarke short story... Don't remember the title (something like Why We Lost The War), but it was written as the record of a court-martial.

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