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Russia and China’s Advances in Space Weapons Worries Pentagon

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will grapple with Russia and China’s possible pursuit of novel space weapons at a meeting at the Pentagon next week. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will grapple with Russia and China’s possible pursuit of novel space weapons at a meeting at the Pentagon next week. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will hold a classified meeting at the Pentagon next week to grapple with Russia and China’s possible pursuit of novel space weapons, according to a publicly posted agenda.

The discussion comes after two key events last year: Russia launched a missile to destroy a defunct Soviet-era satellite, creating more than 1,500 pieces of space debris, and defense officials say China tested a new combination of a hypersonic glide vehicle and a fractional orbital bombardment system ― an unpredictable capability that can stay on orbit as long as the user determines and then de-orbit as part of its flight path.

According to the chief of U.S. Strategic Command, Adm. Charles Richard, China successfully tested that capability, which was “never before seen in the world.” Richard, speaking at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium earlier this month, said the military must now overhaul its missile defenses and develop systems to better warn against launches aimed at the U.S.

“I am not convinced at all we’ve fully thought through the implications of what that weapon system means,” he said. “You’re gonna get decreased warning timelines, difficulties in attribution and an increased threat to our traditional space and missile defenses and forces.”

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