- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2001

The U.S. military will need space weapons in the future to protect commercial and military satellites, the Air Force's top general said yesterday.
Gen. Michael Ryan, the chief of staff of the Air Force, said despite some legal and policy barriers, the military is moving toward deploying both defensive and offensive space weapons because of the United States' growing dependence on satellites.
"I would say eventually we're going to have to have capabilities to take things out in orbit," Gen. Ryan said in a breakfast meeting with defense reporters.
"When we're so dependent [on space] and when others become dependent on it, it becomes … a region of tension," said the general, who is retiring in September. "And we better not be second."
Russia revealed in 1997 that it had developed anti-satellite weapons and China's military also is working on arms capable of destroying or disabling satellites, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
At the same time, both Moscow and Beijing have supported worldwide political campaigns against what they regard as the militarization of space.
"If our dependence upon orbital capabilities continues to grow at the rate that it has over the past 10 to 20 years, we have a huge equity on orbit," Gen. Ryan said.
U.S. space systems are "one of our asymmetrical advantages of this nation intelligence, communications, reconnaissance, weather, navigation huge, huge equities up there," he said.
The growing integration of space systems with air and ground forces is coming to the point that "should we lose them, it would be a huge blow," Gen. Ryan said.
"And that leads you to the thought that if you're going to be up there trying to defend them defensively, where do you cross the line on offensive operations?"
"I would suggest that sometime in the future … we're going to have to come to a policy decision on whether we're going to use space for both defensive and offensive capability," he added.
Gen. Ryan favors keeping a capability to shoot down satellites in space and noted that the Pentagon is developing a space-based laser weapon that is about a decade away from its first test.
Gen. Ryan said there are no clear definitions of space and he noted that current long-range ballistic missiles transit through space on the way to their targets.
As for deploying an "on-orbit" weapon system, Gen. Ryan said, "I think eventually we may need to do that.
"We are working on space-based laser concept, which is a demonstrator, which is clearly a capability in space and is supported by our budget by this Congress," he said.
The Pentagon also may develop a "space bomber" that has the capability of flying in space and in the atmosphere, he said.
Gen Ryan said that the recent test of a new Russian strategic missile with a high-speed, jet-powered last stage shows the need for U.S. missile defenses to address a variety of missile threats.
The four-star general said he did not know enough about the test of an SS-25 with a supersonic ramjet-powered top stage also known as a scramjet. The test was first reported by The Washington Times on Monday.
"But I know the whole area of missile defense that we're working on, it's not just ballistic missile defense, but cruise missile defense, scramjet kind of capabilities," he said, noting that they "are high on our list of 'how do you counter these capabilities.'"
Gen. Ryan also defended President Bush's decision on additional defense expenditures despite complaints by some in the military that it does not go far enough.
The $18.4 billion added recently to the defense budget by the Bush administration is "a lot better than a blow to the face with a dull ax," Gen. Ryan said in characterizing the last four years of the Clinton administration and its cuts in defense spending.
He also said he favors a new round of base closures that would allow the Air Force to save money by consolidating forces.

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