U.S. aims to deter space warfare by preparing for it

SPACE SYMPOSIUM, COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — In a briefing with reporters, the U.S. gave some of its strongest warnings yet about the lengths it will go to protect its satellites from attack by potential adversaries, but stopped short of saying it plans to deploy offensive weapons into orbit.

The U.S. is laying the groundwork to “punch back” against any nation that would try to attack its satellites, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told reporters. “It’s not enough to just enter the ring and take punches,” he said.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson added that the U.S. may “demonstrate our capabilities so our adversaries understand they will not be able to deny us the use of space without consequences.”

Goldfein and Wilson did not specify which countries concern them, but U.S. officials here have criticized China and Russia. Also, in late March India destroyed one of its own satellites with an anti-satellite missile and announced that it was now a “space power.”

Whether the Air Force comments mean the U.S. will deploy offensive weapons in orbit remains an open question: “I think that’s a great policy debate that we’re looking forward to,” said one Air Force official after the briefing when I asked him about the U.S. intent.

Goldfein said the goal is to deter adversaries and prevent war from breaking out in orbit. “If a war extends to or starts in space, everybody loses. Nobody wins,” he said.

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U.S. aims to deter space warfare by preparing for it