Following recent tests of anti-satellite missiles and near-space hypersonic vehicles, China’s military will soon create a new Space Force within the People’s Liberation Army, a sign Beijing is preparing for future space warfare.
Military analysts say there has been no official announcement of the new space warfare unit; however, unofficial sources in China revealed the unit will be part of a new Strategic Support Forces service that will include nuclear missiles — currently under the Second Artillery Force — along with an electronic information forces, cyber warfare units and electronic and signals intelligence.
The shift to space and information warfare is part of a major military reorganization that has been underway in China for the past several years. It’s designed to transform the once ground forces-heavy PLA into a high-technology force.
China conducted the sixth test of a hypersonic strike vehicle on Nov. 23, after having carried out an anti-satellite missile test on Oct. 30. Both weapons are part of China’s large-scale high-technology arms buildup.
A Chinese Internet military blogger posted photos of a purported flight test on Dec. 13 in northwestern China of what was described as either a missile defense interceptor test or anti-satellite missile test.
As reported by Inside the Ring on Oct. 15, the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned that “China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers and directed energy weapons.”
“The Strategic Support Forces appear to have been inspired by the U.S. Strategic Command, which also controls missiles, space assets and cyberwarfare,” said Rick Fisher, a Chinese military affairs specialist. “It appears that the Space Force will control China’s military and commercial satellite program, its manned space program plus an increasing number of space combat programs.”
The new unit also is expected to control China’s future strategic missile defense forces.
Mr. Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said in addition to ground-launched anti-satellite missiles, future PLA space weapons may include aircraft-launched ASATs, laser-armed low earth orbit combat platforms, low earth orbit bombers and dual-use civilian military space shuttles.
Mr. Fisher said there are increasing signs that China plans to send astronauts to land on the moon in the late 2020s to early 2030s, and the missions will include military capabilities.
“It is also possible that the first commander of the Space Force has real ‘Star Wars’ experience,” Mr. Fisher said. “An unofficial list of new PLA commanders listed Maj. Gen. Li Shangfu as the first commander of the Space Force.”
Gen. Li currently is deputy chief of the PLA General Armaments Department and the manned space program, and is likely chief of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, where the PLA has carried out early ASAT tests, perhaps including its first successful satellite interception on Jan. 11, 2007.
That missile test against a Chinese weather satellite created tens of thousands of pieces of space debris that still threaten both manned and unmanned space flights.
Mr. Fisher believes the primary mission of the new Space Force is “to achieve control of low earth orbit in order to defeat the United States on earth.”
“There should be no ‘civil’ space cooperation with China as long as there is any chance its exposure to U.S. space technology could help China to kill Americans,” he told Inside the Ring.
The dissident Chinese news outlet Bowen Press reported Dec. 8 that the Space Support Forces will include three branches — strategic missiles, electronic warfare and space forces.
The Space Support Forces will be headed by Gen. Wei Fenghe, current commander of the missile forces, and its political commissar will be Lt. Gen. Wang Jiasheng.
The Space Support Forces will have standing within the PLA to the Chinese army, navy and air force. The report said the new unit will be set up soon.
CUBA INCREASES REPRESSION
The Obama administration has made major concessions to the communist regime in Cuba by normalizing diplomatic relations, but Havana has shown no signs of letting up in its widespread human rights abuses.
Worse, dissidents in Cuba reported that Cuban security forces have stepped up repression against human rights activities on the island in 2015.
Human rights groups since May have launched a Twitter hashtag campaign called #TodosMarchamos, or We All March, seeking to highlight the plight of human rights activists.
Stepped-up repression centered on government efforts to block Human Rights Day demonstrations in Cuba on Dec. 10. The human rights group Ladies in White had planned to hold a rally on Dec. 10, but the day before, communist authorities organized a pro-government event near the group’s headquarters.
Also, some 200 dissidents throughout Cuba were rounded up and arrested in an effort to thwart Human Rights Day observances. Other activists were forced by security forces to remain in their homes.
Cubanet, a Miami dissident news outlet, reported that Cuban journalists Augusto Cesar San Martin and Osniel Carmona were held under house arrest by Cuba security police. Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez reported that the independent newspaper 14ymedio was raided by security forces on Dec. 10 and its staff was barred from leaving to cover human rights protests.
Cubanet also reported that security forces stepped up harassment of dissidents in Guantanamo Province in recent weeks. Reports from Cuba stated that Ministry of Interior police engaged in beatings, arrests and raids on homes of dissidents.
Repression of human rights in Cuba “has not improved at all” since normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations began in December 2014, Cubanet stated in a Dec. 10 commentary.
Overall, since the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, repression against dissidents steadily has increased.
According to the group Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, November saw the largest number of politically-motivated arrests and detention of activists for 2015, with 1,214 people detained.
Political arrests island-wide included 1,110 in October; 737 in September; 937 in August; 630 in July; 412 in June; 561 in May; 552 in April; 480 in March; 483 in February; and 134 in January.
President Obama, who has said he hopes to visit Cuba before leaving office, has defended his conciliatory approach to the regime of President Raul Castro claiming a new policy was needed because the old policy failed.
“Decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our objective of empowering Cubans to build an open and democratic country,” the White House said in a statement.
CIA ON CHINESE HYPERSONICS
The CIA recently published an internal report on China’s development of hypersonic strike vehicles. The report, “Chinese Ballistic Missiles Using Hyperglide Vehicles: A Quick Reference Guide,” reveals several strike vehicles are being developed by the Chinese military for use on Beijing’s arsenal of missiles.
The list includes the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle that U.S. intelligence agencies believe will be used to deliver nuclear warheads against strategic missile defenses.
The Pentagon also is developing hypersonic strike vehicles, but U.S. weapons designers are focused on non-nuclear high-speed maneuvering attack vehicles as part of the Prompt Global Strike Program. The program is seeking advanced conventional weapons and technologies that can strike any place on earth in minutes.
Chinese hypersonic gliders also are expected to be used for conventional precision strike, in much the same way as the new DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile. The road-mobile DF-26 was unveiled during a military parade in Beijing in September, and can be armed with either a nuclear warhead or a precision guided conventional warhead capable of hitting ships at sea, Chinese officials have claimed.
China is building up both nuclear forces and conventional military as part of a strategic forces modernization that remains hidden behind a cloak of secrecy.
China has conducted six tests of the DF-ZF, all boosted with ballistic missiles. The vehicle is estimated to fly at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10, between 3,836 mph and 7,680 mph.
In October, the Chinese military technical journal “Winged Missiles” stated: “Hypersonic guided weapons, which are based on boost-glide ballistics, can score long-range, rapid, precision strikes. They demonstrate excellent defense penetration performance, which is in line with U.S. mindset.”
Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said in an interview in July that the hypersonic glide vehicles are an emerging threat.
“As I look at that [hypersonic] threat, clearly the mobility, the flight profile, those kinds of things are things we have to keep in mind and be able to address across that full kill chain,” he said.
• Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.