U.S. military says innovation key to defend satellites from threats

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 12, 2016 7:05 PM

By Andrea Shalal

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - U.S. military and intelligence agencies must innovate more and better coordinate their actions to defend critical satellites in the wake of growing potential threats from Russia, China and others, U.S. military leaders said Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the Pentagon and Air Force were taking steps to improve the resilience of U.S. military satellites given their fundamental importance to what he called "the American way of war."

"If an adversary were able to take space away from us, our ability to project decisive military power across transoceanic distances - the very essence of our conventional deterrence - would be critically weakened," Work told a space conference hosted by the Space Foundation.

U.S. military officials are starting to provide details about how they will spend more than $5 billion over the next few years to shore up satellite security, galvanized by gains in technology that could be used by Russia, China and other countries to disrupt or destroy U.S. satellites, or disable their communications links through jamming or other means.

Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Raytheon Co and other weapons makers are anxious see what new business opportunities that could develop as a result of the changes,

Work said the Defense Department would make a series of structural changes by dispersing equipment, hardening satellites and taking other steps to make U.S. satellites "hard to find, hard to catch, hard to hit and hard to kill."

Changes could include using different orbits and deception, as well as use of different operating practices, Work said, noting that Washington would keep some of its changes secret to keep potential adversaries guessing.

The Pentagon is also using older satellites on orbit to experiment and test ways to improve the way it manages and controls satellites, Work told reporters before his speech.

He said three rounds of experiments had already been carried out through the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, but the results had not yet been briefed to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

U.S. Air Force General John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, said the government would also use prototypes and other innovative approaches already used in commercial industry.

Colonel John Wagner, commander of the 406th Space Wing, which operates U.S. missile warning satellites, said the Air Force would also set up an innovation cell in Boulder, Colorado, that would look at potential civilian uses for the powerful sensors on new Space-Based Infrared System satellites built by Lockheed, such as early warning for firefighters.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler)