Will a new theater appear over our planet?


Starting from the day the world learned about US President R. Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), to the present, a great deal of scientific (and unscientific) fiction on the topic of “star wars” has shifted to professional military-political publications and even military leaders. Some bluntly argue that "... an attack from space is now deciding everything and deciding in a very short time."

Let us try, however, to figure out what should be considered real hazards and what is imaginary, and one can or cannot cope with the first.


Today more than 125 countries participate in space activities. The leaders here are the USA and Russia, France, China, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada play a growing role, India, Pakistan and Argentina are becoming increasingly active. In near-earth space, there are about 780 spacecraft (SC), of which 425 belongs to the United States, 102 to Russia, and 22 to the People's Republic of China. By 2015, the quantitative composition of the orbital groupings will increase by more than 400 satellites.

The security of orbital systems for military, dual and civilian purposes has become an essential component of the overall security, economic and scientific activities of almost all developed countries. Space systems are an integral part of the combat potential of the armed forces of the leading countries. Active military spacecraft make up about 40% of the total number of orbiters. The overwhelming majority of them belong to the United States, whose allocations to military space programs are much larger than all the other space states combined.

Given the persistence of political and military contradictions of the leading powers and alliances of states, as well as rapid scientific and technological progress, space, due to its growing peace and military significance, in the near future may become a new arena of the arms race, the possible use of force and even terrorist acts.

At the same time, compared to other military (land, sea, air) military spaces, space is characterized by the greatest limitations. They are due both to the objective laws of astrodynamics discovered by Newton and Kepler, and to the enormous cost and technical complexity of space activities (predictability of orbits, precession, Earth rotation and orbital circulation of the satellites themselves, the most severe weight and size limitations and resource limitations for spacecraft, immanent fragility of their design, high power intensity of launching and maneuvering, etc.).

This explains the fact that, to date, spacecraft provide only information support for the armed forces used in the three traditional environments of military operations, as well as ballistic missiles and missile defense systems not deployed in outer space (that is, in near-earth orbits).


Outer space was already used as a transit zone and weapon test in the 50-60 of the last century — first for nuclear tests, the passage of ballistic missiles, and then for their interception by anti-missile defense systems. However, the deployment of weapons for direct use in space and from space has not taken on a large scale.

In the Soviet Union, the main elements of the anti-satellite system (PSS) based on ballistic missiles were created by 1967 year, then tested at altitudes up to 1000 km, and in 1978-m under the index “IS-M” (later “IS-MU”) the complex was adopted for service. The last of twenty system tests (including five for real targets) took place on 18 June 1982 of the year. In August, the 1983 of the USSR assumed obligations not to be the first to introduce into the outer space any types of such weapons. The IS-MU complex remained in operation until 1993, when Russian President B. Yeltsin issued a decree on de-commissioning it. Prior to the start of the 90, the Contact system was designed to destroy spacecraft at altitudes up to 600 km. MiG-31 fighters were used as carriers of interceptor missiles.

A powerful intensification of work on space weapons occurred in the USSR at the beginning of the 80s of the last century in connection with the US program of the Strategic Defense Initiative announced by President R. Reagan on March 23 of the year 1983. Dozens of very expensive Soviet research and development projects were structured according to symmetrical and asymmetric measures and were designed as SK-1000, D-20 and SP-2000 programs. At the beginning of the 90-s, these programs were mostly turned off.

For today's Russia in the foreseeable future, the implementation of such large-scale projects is impossible due to the collapse of developer cooperation and limited financial resources. However, if space weapons are launched in the United States, some of the programs, especially on asymmetric measures, can be revived.

In the United States, work on anti-satellite systems began in 1957. In the 80-s, it was developed and in 1984-1985 successfully tested (at altitudes up to 1000 km) air-based MSS based on the F-15 fighter and the SREM-Altair satellite interceptor. The system was "mothballed" in 1988. Currently, the RSS, ground and flight tests of the highest degree of readiness consist of the MSS based on the Aegis modified sea-based anti-missile system with A-3 (SM-3) missiles tested in February. 2008 of the year. Also developed by the army ground-based ground mobile PSS (KEASat), are tested laser anti-satellite and anti-missile air-based system (ABL), ground anti-satellite laser complex "MIRACL". A number of systems are in the stage of exploratory R & D and R & D, in particular, space-based electronic countermeasures (REF), autonomous micro-spacecraft designed to protect and diagnose malfunctions of US spacecraft.

The project of a system for destroying objects on Earth from space appeared in 1987 in the form of a space-based gliding vehicle (SBGV). In 2010, the next version of this type of system "X-37B" (X-37B), a compact unmanned aerospace shuttle, was tested. However, the operational and strategic validity of such systems in modern conditions is in great doubt. There are no combat missions that would be solved by a space-based or partially orbital type system more efficiently and (or) cheaper than using existing nuclear and high-precision conventional missile (ballistic and aerodynamic) and aviation ground, air and sea-based facilities.

In addition to the United States and Russia, China has joined the work on anti-satellite weapons. In 2007, it became known about the first successful (after three previous failures) tests in the PRC of anti-satellite weapons - the fact of interception of the Chinese spacecraft Fenyun-1-3 at an altitude of 860 km was established.


In January, 2001, a commission commissioned by the US Congress on space issues, set three tasks for placing weapons in space: protecting the existing US space systems, preventing the enemy from using space, striking space attacks against any targets on the ground, at sea or in the air. In the same vein, in 2006, US President G. Bush approved the governing document "National Space Policy". The stake was made on the absolute superiority of the United States in the creation of space weapons of all types and on the rejection of any restrictions in this area.

After the arrival of the administration of President B. Obama in June 2010, a new “US National Space Policy” was approved. Being, as before, focused on preserving American leadership in science and technology and in ensuring security (including the advanced development of intelligence, communications, navigation), it also emphasizes close international cooperation, free access to space for all countries, openness and transparency of actions in the space sphere. This is a significant difference from the previous administration’s cosmic doctrine. It is also stated that the United States is ready to consider proposals for the control of space weapons, if they are equal, verifiable and enhance the security of the United States.

There is no doubt that the United States has deployed the largest “assets” in space, on which both their peaceful livelihoods and the functioning of strategic and general-purpose forces depend. Therefore, the United States is, firstly, much more interested in the safety of its orbital systems and, secondly, much more interested in ensuring the safety of its own satellites than in creating a threat to satellites of other countries. Apparently, this is why the United States, far ahead of other powers on space weapons technology, has so far limited itself to individual experiments, but has not embarked on a wide deployment of space weapon systems in service, relying on the “side” anti-satellite potential of missile defense systems of a strategic and operational-tactical class. .

Due to financial constraints and organizational and technical problems of the defense industry, the current Russian military space programs are significantly inferior to the US in scale and degree of development. However, strong recommendations about the need to create space weapons in Russia, primarily the MSS, are increasingly appearing in the professional press and in various forums. This is justified by the tasks of direct counteraction by the space systems of information support of the current high-precision conventional weapons of the United States, and in the future - by the goals of fighting the orbiters of their possible space-based missile defense.

In the 2006 year, probably, in response to a call from the United States, the president of the Russian Federation approved the Aerospace Defense Concept. It seems that in light of the importance of the topic, it is time to adopt and publish a comprehensive Russian concept of national space policy.

Probably, China objectively has interests similar to Russia in this area, although its priorities may differ. The PRC may be less concerned about the high-precision conventional means of the United States, but more than Russia, it is concerned about the projects of the US space defense system due to the relative limitations of its nuclear deterrence potential.


Currently, space law does not prohibit the deployment in space of any weapon that is not a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) prohibited by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. There is no ban on anti-satellite weapons of any type of base. After the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002, the testing and deployment of space-based ABM systems or their components in space is not limited.

Russia and China 12 February 2008 jointly submitted to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva a draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Use of Force or the Threat of Force against Space Objects (CPED). Prior to this, the problem has been discussed here for more than five years. According to article II of the draft PPWP, the member states undertake not to place into the orbit around the Earth any objects with any weapons, not to install such weapons on celestial bodies and not to deploy such weapons in outer space in any other way, or to resort to the use of force or threat. force against space objects.

At the same time, the system of the Earth-to-space class, the most rapidly developing and capable of joining the combat force, in the foreseeable period is not related to the subject of the treaty. Instead, only space systems of missile defense, MSS, and space-to-Earth class facilities, which belong to a more distant future, if ever created, are affected. This is a significant departure from the Soviet position of 80's, which was not very realistic, but comprehensive. The initiative of the Russian Federation - the PRC has brought some positive results, but rather in a political propaganda vein, and not as a step towards the practical limitation of space weapons.

The long-term experience of initiatives and negotiations on this issue shows that among diplomats and experts there are huge ambiguities and discrepancies even regarding the very subject of contractual regulation. It is more or less generally accepted that space weapons are means of destruction, created and tested for strikes against any targets and at the same time based on space objects (that is, having performed at least one complete revolution in near-earth orbit), and also means of destruction of any kind of home base. , created and tested for attacks on space objects (that is, made at least one revolution in near-earth orbit). Thus, any land-based, sea-based and air-launched ballistic missiles and missile defense systems are excluded, since they do not complete a revolution around the Earth and do not intercept targets that have made such a revolution.

This kind of definition of space weapons is very broad in scope. The disadvantage is that it is formulated by referring to their home-based environment (space) and to the medium for finding targets of destruction (space), and not to the specific technical characteristics of the weapon. By analogy, one can imagine how difficult the task of disarmament measures would be if the subject of the agreement were, say, “any sea-based weapon or weapon for hitting naval targets”. Another drawback is the blurring of definition boundaries. For example, the same mentioned American system “X-37B” can be considered as a space weapon when tested with a full rotation around the Earth, and with a partially orbital test it is not.

The experience of successful disarmament negotiations in the past has always been built around the recorded technical characteristics of weapons systems and the agreed designations of their types and types. For example, under the new START Treaty of 2010, a cruise missile "means a rocket that is unmanned, equipped with its own propulsion system means of delivering weapons, the flight of which in most of its trajectory is provided through the use of aerodynamic lift" (Protocol, Ch. 1, n. 21). Moreover, the strategic ALCM attributed missiles, tested at a distance of over 600 km.

At present, there are no similar characteristics with respect to space weapons due to the wide variety, multipurpose use and different stages of development of such systems.

Of particular difficulty is the prohibition of damage systems based on directional energy transfer, primarily lasers. Their striking effect varies widely depending on the radiation energy, the reflector area, the distance to the target, and the beam path environment. They can be used both to destroy satellites and ballistic missiles, and to detect, probe and identify objects in space, on land and under water, target other weapon systems, and in the long term - to quickly transfer a huge amount of information, that is, to communicate.

A complex “interlacing” is created by strategic missile defense systems of any type of base, which have an immanent anti-satellite potential at orbit altitudes up to about 1000 km. In addition to intercepting missiles at the early stage of the upper stage of the trajectory and the final part of the entrance to the atmosphere, the targets for the missile defense systems fly through the same space environment in which most spacecraft with apogee within 1000 km rotate in orbits. The satellites in these orbits move somewhat faster than the final stages and missile warheads (around 8 km / s and 5-7 km / s, respectively), but otherwise represent lighter targets for interception.

Unfortunately, the project CPRK RF - China from 2008, does not give an answer to any of these questions, and the problem of control does not concern.

Will a new theater appear over our planet?


For practical disarmament, in contrast to the declarative and propaganda control over the observance of agreements is an essential and indispensable condition. In most previous and existing disarmament treaties, the center of gravity of control falls on the deployment phase and deployment of weapons systems in combat (ABM Treaty, OCB-1, START-1, RSD-RMD, CFE Treaty, CWC, Prague Treaty of START). The space contract from 1967 also applies to this phase (in terms of non-deployment of weapons of mass destruction in space), but does not provide for any control measures.

Much to a lesser extent, the control measures of these disarmament treaties cover the stage of testing weapon systems (as applied to the CFE Treaty, they are not covered at all). The exception was START-1, according to which missile tests were tightly controlled (including a ban on encryption of telemetric information), as well as the CTBT, which is completely related to testing. As for the stage of creation, that is, the development of weapons systems before the testing phase, it was not affected by any agreement except the ABM Treaty (which caused great controversy), as well as the CWC and the BTWC, and the latter was never provided with a control system.

Unlike historical experience, space weapons are the most difficult thing to prohibit or limit at the deployment and staying stages, especially when it comes to deployment in space, as in the PPWT project from 2008. It would be extremely difficult to identify using forbidden weapons satellites among approximately 800 spacecraft using approximately national technical means of control (NTSC). It is even more difficult to prove their belonging to the forbidden type without inspection in space or descent to Earth, which is hardly acceptable for states. The same applies to inspection of a payload before launch, which may reveal military or commercial secrets.

As for space weapons, land, air or sea-based, which are most likely in the foreseeable future (but not affected by the PPWT project from 2008 year), the picture is ambiguous. The easiest way would be to prohibit systems like the Soviet "IS-ME" by the prohibition of certain types of ICBMs (for example, partially orbital). As applied to aircraft-based systems such as the American F-80 SREM-Altair system deployed in 15 and the Soviet MSS-based development based on the MiG-31 fighter, control would be difficult due to the multi-purpose use and mass availability of such aircraft in combat personnel, as well as small dimensions of interceptor missiles, allowing warehousing in airport storage facilities. Of course, such MSS has special guidance systems, but their prohibition “would intrude” into the general infrastructure of the space complex management and is therefore unrealistic.


Negotiations on the prohibition of space weapons can be a practical task in the context of resuscitating the entire disarmament process, especially if the administration of President Obama in practice begins to revise the US military space policy. In this case, taking into account past experience, you will probably have to re-approach the subject, format and methods of contractual regulation.

It is appropriate to recall that the practical basis of the strategic arms treaties were not the abstract peaceful aspirations of the powers, but the balance of asymmetric military interests of the parties (for example, limiting mobile and heavy ICBMs in exchange for limiting ALCM and SLBM on START-1). In the space sphere, an obvious balance of such interests of the parties could be the prohibition or severe restriction of anti-satellite systems in exchange for the abandonment of the development of space-based missile defense systems, referring to space-based shock systems (interceptors). The first is beneficial to the United States, and the second to Russia and the PRC. In such a contractual format, a technical “interleaving” of ABM and MSS, which makes it difficult to prohibit one without prohibiting the other, can contribute to measures of their limitation in the aggregate. (The problem of strategic high-precision conventional systems through space cannot be solved - this is the subject of other negotiations.)

Instead of a ban on deployment and as a way to indirectly solve this problem, the agreement could consist in a ban on the testing of any anti-satellite systems and attack missile defense systems (interceptor systems of any kind) orbital basing. In this case we are talking about the tests with the actual destruction of the target satellite, or ballistic missile, or its elements on the flight trajectory, which were carried out in the USSR in 60-80-s, in the USA - in 80-s and in 2008, and in China - in 2007. Undoubtedly, without full-scale tests, such complex and innovative systems will not be deployed in the combat strength of space forces.

Control over such an agreement may be based on the parties' NTSK, preferably in combination with facilitation measures and some transparency. For example, it is necessary to confirm and expand the existing format of notifications on all missile launches, including space launches. At the same time it will reduce the growing threat of "space debris".

The elimination of outdated satellites, if they pose a threat of falling, should be supervised by the other side (parties) and with providing sufficient information so as not to arouse suspicion about conducting hidden tests of the MSS, like an American interception of spacecraft in the 2008 year.

The initial contract could have a limited duration (say, 10-15 years with the possibility of extension). The format of the agreement could at the first stage include the United States, Russia, and preferably the PRC, and foresee the possibility of joining other powers in the future.

After the 30 years of negotiations, there is hardly any reason to hope to conclude a single comprehensive agreement on outer space following the model of the Treaty of 1967, the BTWC or the CWC. In all respects, the subject of space disarmament is more likely analogous to the limitation and reduction of strategic armaments. Therefore, the proposed above version of the original contract of necessity is of a partial and selective nature. It was also, by the way, with the SALT-1 Interim Agreement of 1972 of the year and the SALT-2 Agreement of 1979 of the year. Without going through those natural stages, the parties would never have reached such unprecedented agreements on disarmament and transparency as the RSD-RMD Treaty of 1987, START-1 of 1991, and Prague Treaty of START of 2010.

Having entered the era of globalization, the world faces new security problems that cannot be resolved on a unilateral, let alone military and force basis. Solving these tasks urgently requires the interaction of the leading powers and all the responsible states of the world, including cooperation in the use of space to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, suppress international terrorism, multilateral peacekeeping operations, control over disarmament, effective measures regarding climate and the environment in general. , energy and food security.

This implies the imperative of the immediate start of practical negotiations to achieve realistic international agreements that prevent the transformation of outer space into a theater of armed rivalry, incidents and conflicts.
1 comment
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  1. 0
    11 July 2012 15: 56
    Knowing the Americans, it can be argued that star wars are just around the corner. I don’t believe that they will resist the temptation to punish some small but proud country using an ever-increasing advantage in space.