Analysis 02/07/12 - Guarding the "High Ground" to secure access to the global commons - par Jean-Claude Bessez
From time immemorial wars have always been fought on land and on the seas. Then in the 20th century superiority in the third dimension was to prove decisive for victory. After World War 2 the two superpowers launched into the conquest of space.
In the race to this new "HIGH FRONTIER" (1) the U.S.A. was only to be rejoined in the late 20th century by the new behemoth, China whose sprawling assertive economic dominance and new found and ostentatious military might is perceived as a challenge, or even a threat by the nations on either side of the Pacific and as far away as those bordering the Indian Ocean.
The first successful docking of a Chinese space station in June 2012 was a coup d'éclat with wide-ranging consequences for Beijing's image and clout (2).
Today's Global Commons comprise not only the air or the sea dimension, but space and cyberspace.
Cyberwarfare, cybersecurity have become buzzwords in the military jargon. Conventional warfare has come to rely increasingly on satellites (3). It did not take long before the defence of these invaluable assets jumped to the top of the priority list (4).
Cyberwar is closely linked to space operations in so far as the latter are heavily dependent on the links between computer networks based in the other four dimensions.
Network-centric warfare (NCW) (5) relies on a conjunction between computer science and satellites; cyberspace dominance is the prerequisite to superiority, let alone supremacy in the fourth dimension, and, as a result…in the other three.
In a CNN series
called THE WORLD's UNTOLD STORIES, a programme dubbed Warfare by Remote (6)
perfectly illustrated the use of drones (in that case, Unmanned Combat Aerial
Vehicle, UCAV) conducting kill (so-called "kinetic") missions over
Afghanistan and Pakistan from the comfortable safety of a USAF airbase in
continental US (CONUS).
The alarm bells went ringing in the Pentagon went the Chinese successfully destroyed one of their antiquated satellites on January 11th, 2007 at an altitude of 530 miles "up there" (7).
According to Desmond BALL, an Australian analyst of strategic affairs, scoring such a hit could only trigger a race in space by any country possessing an array of long or medium range ballistic missiles or satellite launchers and a system of long range radars.
The space "playing field" had suddenly been evened, notwithstanding some 30 to 40 countries that had joined the fray and started to clutter outer space with their own satellites … and debris.
September 1st, 1982, the AIR FORCE SPACE COMMAND (AFSPC) is headquartered in
PATERSON AFB (Colorado) (8).
TYPOLOGY OF SPACE OPERATIONS
Space operations are the ears and eyes of the AFSPC to which they provide either the sword to strike or the shield to protect.
They are of three types: they can provide a full global situational awareness to know what is happening in orbit; as Defensive Counter-Space Ops, they are intended to protect space-based assets; as Offensive Counter-Space Ops, they are meant to disrupt an adversary's space capacities in order to prevent him from using space to his advantage.
They rely on three segments: they can be ground-based, or link-based (i.e. ground to space), or space-based.
They are designed to fulfil three missions: ensure space dominance (not to be mistaken with a mere "superiority" in space), guard against space vulnerability, and protect against space insecurity.
Realising that Space dominance is key to freedom of action in cyberspace and that Space operations depend on cyberspace, the OBAMA Administration is studying the ways and means to preserve and enhance US superiority in military space operations.
The years between the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and 2007 saw a significant increase in the number of countries using space and developing their capabilities to that end, among them China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea or Iran .
Bent on fending
off these potential threats, the AIR FORCE was persuaded to set up a SPACE
FENCE, whose blueprint was entrusted to three industrial teams in charge of
issuing an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) by the year 2015.
This SPACE FENCE should be able to track objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Middle Earth Orbit (MEO), be they space debris, operating satellites or other spacecraft.
This SPACE FENCE is expected to achieve such technological feats as to simultaneously track 100.000 objects, some of which averaging less than two inches in size.
The Pentagon is in favour of the "international community" regulating space, as it already does for the seas or nuclear weapons.
For Washington freedom of action in space is as important as air or sea power.
In the C4ISR JOURNAL PALOWITCH makes a point quite candidly:
We are not trying to save satellites. We are trying to preserve our country's space effects.
Uncle Sam has learnt to eat humble pie. He's left with no other choice but to
negotiate with the emerging upcoming powers so as to safeguard his niche.
THE MILITARISATION AND WEAPONIZATION OF SPACE
In a Web Memo (9) dating back to 2005, SPENCER Jack & GUDGEL Kathy of the HERITAGE FOUNDATION made a quick assessment of the 2005 Quadriennal Defense Review (QDR) in which the lawmakers broached two "unmentionable" (sic) topics, i.e. the reaction of the U.S.A. to the modernising of the People's Liberation Army (APL) and the role space was expected to play, from a military perspective, in the future planning and operations.
According to the authors of the Web Memo, the U.S.A. still enjoys a significant lead in the use of space for military purposes. What is at issue is how the nation can preserve, protect and increase its existing advantages.
Space operations might prove vital for victory in future conflicts, given the reliance of nuclear forces on satellites for early warning and target designation (10).
Albeit a highly technical issue, this "militarization of space" had already been the focus of many a preoccupation of US defence planners, not only in the 2001 QDR, but in such following official documents as:
Ø The 2002
Joint Doctrine for Space Operations,
Ø The 2004 Air Force Counterspace Operations,
Ø The 2005 National Defense Strategy,
Ø the SPACE OPERATIONS Air Force Doctrine Document 2-2, dated November 21 2006,
Ø and the 2010 Quadriennal Defense Review 2010.
Peter BROOKES (11) sees Moscow and Beijing as challenging US pre-eminence in space with a view to being ultimately in a position to pose a threat to US space assets.
General C. Robert ('Bob') KEHLER (12), commanding officer of the AFSPC, looks squarely at the situation:
US space assets will no longer dominate unchallenged.
Protecting those assets, and as a consequence the freedom of action of the U.S.A. in the fourth dimension, ranks as a national priority.
In a Testimony delivered to the Senate (13), the then Defence Secretary, Robert GATES, urged the U.S.A. to acquire a "defensive" ABM capability so as to thwart the ambitions of such states as designated by George W. BUSH as forming an "Axis of Evil".
Negotiations were already under way with Poland and the Czech Republic in order to establish a launch site in the former and a radar station in the latter, without forgetting the upgrading of the radar warning system in the UK (14).
In his Testimony Secretary GATES made no secret that China caused major headaches to the American Administration bent on:
"preserving the supremacy of the United States while ensuring an unhindered, reliable and safe and secure access to Space"
The use of the word "supremacy" as opposed to "superiority" is not fortuitous. Needless to say, Beijing will not have missed that point.
"What worries the Pentagon" (15) is the kind of hardware that is not put on display for the annual military parade on Tiennamen Square.
Indeed, in 2003, and then in 2005 Beijing successfully sent Taikonautes into orbital space. China plans to launch some 100 dual satellites before 2015, make a manned moon-landing and launch an exploratory device in the near future (16) .
China is fully aware that the space infrastructure is the US forces' Achilles' heel: deprived of their spy and communications satellites, US forces would be as good as deaf, dumb and blind. This "soft spot" is the US Centre of Gravity (CoG).
Chinese analysts have learnt the lessons from the wars waged by Washington in the Balkans, in Iraq and Afghanistan: America is overly dependent on a highly complex and vulnerable network of Command, Control, Communications and Computer (C4) that supply Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
Ashley TELLIS (17) explains that the Chinese concept of "active defence" necessarily implies "information dominance" that denies the adversary the use of its space-based assets to shape the battlespace on the ground to its advantage. Geospatial Intelligence (GeoInt) has come into its own (18).
China's space and counter-space programs herald an era of increasing vulnerability for US military assets.
This is bound to have an impact on the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific Area and on the whole Asian continent itself.
The whole world has become dependent on the workshop of the world. Economic growth in the Middle Kingdom has bred prosperity and fed assertiveness. With the current crisis in the EUROZONE and in the U.S.A. since 2008, China along with the other BRICs is in a position to have a weighty say in such international financial institutions as the IMF or the World Bank, offering help with strings to bail out the spendthrifts in the West.
that its growing military might and diplomatic clout pose no threat. The rest of
the world, and particularly America, is not so sure.
THE US BULL(y) IN THE CHINA SHOP
Just as the double-headed Russian eagle has always looked east and west, so America, owing to its geographic centrality and geopolitical role, has also always faced both ways: towards the Atlantic AND towards the Pacific; yet, nowadays Asia is exerting an unmistakable and inescapable pull.
belatedly realizing it had been for over a decade distracted by its Global War
on Terror (GWAT), its wars in Afghanistan (OEF) and Iraq (OIF), America has
decided to put AFRICOM somewhat on the backburner and to make a comeback in the
Asia-Pacific area, stretching the geographical approach to encompass a
open-ended time frame dubbed "the Indo-Pacific era" (19), and thus
kickstarting another Great Game.
America is (re)discovering itself as a Pacific nation.
The American eagle has returned to Southeast Asia (20).
Hence, the decision of Washington to "pivot" (21) or "tilt" from the Atlantic to the Pacific and its new diplomacy of engagement and partnerships with ASEAN nations, including erstwhile enemies like Vietnam (22).
With this landmark strategic shift USPACOM has come centerstage.
new strategic guidance and JOINT OPERATIONAL ACCESS CONCEPT (JOAC) published on
January 17, 2012, interestingly hinges in fact on TWO PIVOTS: China in the
Asia-Pacific area, and Iran in the Middle East (23).
It argues for a sharp departure from the previous decade's irregular wars: the U.S. military should prepare to deter and, if necessary, defeat more traditional adversaries and "project power despite anti-access/area denial challenges (A2 / AD)" (24), as embodied in DoD's new "AIR SEA BATTLE CONCEPT" (25) designed to hedge its bets (26).
DoD identified three emerging trends likely to complicate and oppose access for US joint forces (27):
1. "the dramatic improvement and proliferation of weapons and other technologies capable of denying access to or freedom of action within an operational area;
2. the changing U.S. overseas defense posture.
3. the emergence of space and cyberspace as increasingly important and contested domains."
As regards the changing US overseas defense posture, space and cyberspace are gaining in importance as contested domains.
The disruption of the enemy system will require the full inclusion of space and cyberspace operations into the once traditional air-land- sea battlespace, now re-focused on the new concept of an AIR SEA BATTLE.
the Atlantic community steadily disinvests in its armed forces, Asia's states
are engaged in a prolonged and determined arms build-up…
The overarching strategic picture is dominated by responses to China's rising power, as the second-tier states surrounding it build closer ties with the US (28)."
State Department officials deny it's all about "Containing" China… (29) and try to play down Chinese suspicions as aired at a meeting in Beijing with Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr by his counterpart Yang Jiechi less than mildly irked (30) by the announcement of US Marines rotating in Darwin (31).
In the context
of reinforcing regional links, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith has
welcomed the new strategic partnership signed between the US and New-Zealand, a
close security ally of both the US and New Zealand (32) .
Hence, the "strategic dialogue" with New Delhi as a counterweight to Beijing in many respects. India was noticeably singled out in the new US Strategy (33).
Moreover, on his way to the SHANGRI-LA DIALOGUE in Singapore, a meeting of regional defense leaders, Defense Secretary Panetta hailed Japan's relationship with the U.S. and called its alliance "the cornerstone of regional security and prosperity in the 21st century (34)."
Russia's airpower modernization efforts, North Korea's bellicose actions or
China's modernization of the PLAAF, the balance of aerospace power in Northeast
Asia is shifting, which accounts for the US welcoming Japan's cooperation (35) .
IN ASIA ALSO THE BUTTON IS ON 'RESET'
The global economy needs to keep free and safe the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs), the sinews and arteries through which the vital blood of trade flows.
But, at the same time, China is viewed by its neighbours as slightly 'pushy' (to put it mildly) when it comes to sovereignty issues in the case of the Paracel or Spratley islands, for instance; not to mention the overt goal pursued by Beijing strategists of rolling back US ships beyond the first, and then beyond the second island chain, in a sea which it considers as "the China sea".
China's fast advance in high-tech weaponry, build-up of a blue-water navy, space missions, deep-water exploration (36) show to the whole world the economic giant now has the muscle to make its weight felt.
Asian countries and India have voiced their growing concern:
"Chinese leaders have depicted their policy in the Yellow, East China, and South China seas as a matter of sovereignty.
China has given fellow Asian powers ample grounds to worry about how it will use the armed forces it is busily assembling (37)."
Speaking on June
02, 2012 at SHANGRI-LA, Panetta said that broadening relations between
Washington and Beijing might foster mutual trust between them and offered to
continue high-level military-to-military meetings in the coming years (38).
Speaking softly and carrying a big stick with him, General DEMPSEY, CJCS, confirmed DoD expects to deploy about 60 per cent of the US Navy in an attempt to "rebalance" the Pacific strategic "pivot" (39) as a precautionary measure.
"Forewarned is forearmed".
Thomas G. MAHNKEN from the LOWY INSTITUTE sounds, though, a note of caution: only cultural awareness can avoid misperceptions and miscalculations. To cope with a rising China, a deep understanding of Chinese strategic culture is imperative.
All the more so,
as the Chinese themselves regard their strategic culture as an important
determinant of their behaviour and that of others (40).
" The new reality is that America's pragmatic interests lie in Asia, where it faces the most serious strategic challenge since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as the best prospects for the recovery of its economy…
"… America will struggle to come to terms with the new realities in Asia, because it will approach them with an Atlantic mindset. Its expectations about what it can do, and how it does them, will need constant readjustment in Asia. Whether it can juggle two different approaches to international affairs will be a major challenge for the US in the twenty-first century (41)."
1 - HIGH FRONTIER - The Journal for Space and Space and Cyberspace Professionals, by HQ AFSPC, August 2010, Vol.6, N°4
2 - Shenzou-9
crew prepare for first manual docking, 19th June 2012
3 - The Space Report 2010, Space Foundation, http://www.TheSpaceReport.org
4 - Defending Space, Jane's Defence Weekly, August 23, 2006
5 - This concept
is graphically explained and depicted in a REAL PLAYER VIDEO of the USN :
For pictures and graphs, see :
http://www.defense-update.com/photos/stss.html (site EUCOM.MIL)
6 - CNN, Warfare by remote, in The World Untold Stories, 09 August 2009
7 - Rebecca GRANT, Vulnerability in Space, June 2008 http://www.airforce-magazine.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2008/June%202008/0608space.aspx
8 - USAF AFSC
Fact Sheet September 2009
9 - SPENCER Jack & GUDGEL Kathy, Webmemo N° 819, HERITAGE FOUNDATION, August 11, 2005
10 - SPACE INTELLIGENCE PREPARATION OF THE OPERATIONAL ENVIRONMENT ou IPOE (p.24 USAF SPACE OPS DOCTRINE 2006
11 - Peter BROOKES, Opinion: Marking the boundaries of weapon use in space, Jane's Defence Weekly, 22 July 2008. Peter Brookes is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation
12 - http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=6008
13 - Testimony
as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. GATES, 106 Dirksen Senate Office
Building, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 09, 2007
14 - such sites as Menwith Hill and Fylingdales are part of the worldwide distributed ECHELON network (revealed with great fracas to the general public in 2000)
15 - BROOKES
Peter, What worries the Pentagon, Heritage, October 07, 2009
16 - Annual
Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage
Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States, 2008
17 - TELLIS
Ashley, Punching the U.S. Military's 'soft ribs': China's ASAT Weapon Test in
Strategic Perspective, Policy Brief 51, June 2007, Carnegie Endowment for
TELLIS Ashley, China's Space Capabilities and their Impact on U.S. National Security - Testimony before the US-China Economic & Security Review Commission, May 20, 2008, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
18 - See IQPC at http://www.geospatialdefence.com as well as DGI at http://www.dgieurope.com
19 - The Indian Ocean: a Critical Arena for 21st Century Threats and Challenges, Ellen LAIPSON, Stimson Center, 2009, p: 67-80
20 - The Eagle returns, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Policy Analysis N°98, 13 February 2012
21 - America's Pacific Century, Hillary CLINTON, Foreign Policy Magazine, November 2011
22 - Asia, the Americas, and U.S. Strategy for a New Century, William J. BURNS, Deputy Secretary, November 4, 2011 http://www.state.gov/s/d/2011/176667.htm
23 - New US
military concept marks pivot to sea and air
24 - The
Emerging Anti-Access / Area-Denial Challenge, Nathan FRIER, csis,
25 - http://www.csbaonline.org/
26 - US policy
towards a rising China indicates caution - not aggression, Al-Jazeera, 08
27 - Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), Department of Defense, 17 January 2012
28 - A new bipolarity, by Michael Wesley , firstname.lastname@example.org- 2 april 2012
29 - US Strategy in Southeast Asia: Power Broker, Not Hegemon, David J. Greene, Joint Forces Quarterly N°64, 1st Quarter 2012
30 - Chinese
spokesman rebukes US-Australian military alliance,
31 - China concerned over Australia's 'Cold War' military relationship with US, JANE's Intelligence Weekly 2012
32 - Australia welcomes US-NZ defence accord, 20 Jun 2012, at: http://www.3news.co.nz/Australia-welcomes-US-NZ-defence-accord/tabid/423/articleID/258460/Default.aspx
33 - Analysis: US eyes Indian military as counterweight to China, JANE's Defence Weekly, 13 September 2010
34 - Panetta Singles Out Japan as 'Cornerstone' of Strategy, DefenseNews, June 4, 2012, p.4 & 8
35 - Air Power Trends in Northeeast Asia: Implications for Japan and the U.S.-Japan Alliance, Project 2049 Institute
36 - Jiaolong
has set a new manned submersible dive record by 7,020 meters, June 27, 2012
37 - China's
Monroe Doctrine, James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the U.S.
Naval War College. He is writing a history of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet
38 - Panetta :
Partnerships, Training Focus of U.S. Pacific Strategy, DefenseNews, June 11,
2012, p.4 & 8,
see also: PANETTA at SHANGRI LA DIALOGUE June 2012, First Plenary Session, The US Rebalance Towards the Asia-Pacific
39 - Dempsey outlines vision for U.S. As-Pac strategy, JANE's Defence Weekly, 13 June 2012, p.8
40 - Secrecy and Stratagem: Understanding Chinese Strategic Culture, Thomas G. Mahnken, Lowy Institute, February 2011
41 - A new
bipolarity, by Michael Wesley , email@example.com- 2 april 2012
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