Classification of space and anti-space weapons: a view from the United States


Photo: commons.wikimedia.org


As you know, the US is actively resisting the conclusion of an agreement banning the deployment of systems weapons in space (at the moment there is only an agreement on nuclear weapons in orbit). Negotiations on this issue, however, continue periodically. At the same time, no one is talking about the prohibition of anti-satellite weapons. But even if we are talking about such a treaty seriously, we will need to first draw up at least a classification of such weapons systems. And this is a problem. No one really tried to do this at a serious level, although at the expert level such attempts occur.

Classification problems


One attempt to create such a classification was made by Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in an article published by the resource C4ISRNET. There he tries to create a taxonomy of space and anti-space weapons. His research was presented at a time when a number of countries, including Japan, France, South Korea, and the United States, were expanding or expanding military organizations specifically oriented to space, with officials in these countries hinting (if not expressly saying so) about the need expanding their respective capabilities in the field of space weapons. In addition, both India and China, and, undoubtedly, Russia, are engaged in this topic, which is actively developing primarily anti-satellite weapon systems or systems that can act against orbital targets, both with the physical destruction of targets and with their temporary or permanent incapacitation or parts of the equipment on them.

Despite certain contractual restrictions on the placement of weapons in space, Harrison argues that there is no real consensus on what means the placement of weapons in space, even if it becomes impossible to deny that a number of states already have space weapons:

“In order to come to a consensus definition of what is considered a space weapon and what is not, you will need a negotiated mechanism that will be widely accepted. The likelihood that this will happen is negligible. Therefore, I think that in a practical sense, countries will continue to define space weapons in such a way that they mean everything that they want, so that they meet their own goals. And we will have to go through this in terms of communicating with allies and partners and communicating with the public.


Harrison Categories


In Harrison's report, space-based and anti-space weapons are divided into six categories, including kinetic and non-kinetic versions of the Earth-to-space, Space-to-space, and Space-to-Earth systems, six in total. These categories are:

1. Kinetic weapons "Earth - space". Missile systems launched from Earth.

Such weapons risk leaving behind space debris fields. These missile systems can be equipped with conventional (specify: kinetic or high-explosive fragmentation charges) or nuclear warheads. Such anti-satellite missile tests were conducted by China in 2007 or India in 2019. It is strange that Harrison forgot to mention the US-3 satellite intercepting the US-193 satellite in 2008 by the American anti-missile system - perhaps he does not consider the attack on an already falling device to be a successful anti-satellite test such altitude, where satellites usually do not fly, and from where they are only just flying down. Harrison mentions that the United States and Russia "demonstrated this ability, with the United States and Russia conducting nuclear tests in space in the 1960s." Well, suppose the Soviet Union conducted nuclear tests. He also performed numerous tests of missile defense systems A-35, A-35M and A-135, which are capable of working on low-orbit targets. For some reason, Harrison forgot it. But on the other hand, he recalled that "Russia experienced this ability recently, in April." This is it about the next launch of the anti-missile long-range interception "Nudol" of the A-235 ABM system, which had an anti-satellite orientation and was successful. However, there have been a lot of Nudoli launches in recent years, and almost all of them were successful, except for one, according to Western sources. But Nudol is, first and foremost, an anti-missile defense system, and, secondly, an anti-satellite missile, and not all tests had an anti-satellite orientation. Harrison also “forgot” about the latest super-large radius air defense system, the S-500, which also has anti-satellite capabilities.

2. Non-kinetic weapons "Earth - space." Here, Harrison includes various jamming systems for satellite communications or radio engineering or radar reconnaissance systems, systems aimed at tricking intelligence tools, systems that allow to blind and spoil equipment temporarily or permanently, for example, laser or microwave. As well as "cyber attacks", that is, hacking communication channels and control devices. Many countries have this potential, including the USA, Russia, China and Iran, Harrison believes.

There is potential, but only in Russia such systems are actually in service now, if we talk about blinding and burning out laser weapons. It's about the Peresvet laser complex, widely known after the well-known May 76 message from our president. And also we are talking about the next generation of the Sokol-Echelon system being created, that is, the laser system on board the IL aircraft. True, the question is: is it possible to consider such a weapon as "Earth - space" or is it worth introducing a separate classification? But systems for jamming satellites and breaking satellites are in service with both Russia and its American "partners."

3. Kinetic weapons "Space - space". That is, satellites that physically intercept other satellites in order to destroy them, at the same time as with the loss of the interceptor itself, which also explodes, or due to the use of weapons by this interceptor without its loss - say, missiles, guns, laser systems, etc.

Here again, the problem of garbage arises, as well as the potential use of nuclear weapons, which could have consequences for a number of systems. The Soviet Union has repeatedly tested such interceptor satellites, both disposable, and based on other principles of destruction. These interceptors (satellites such as "Flight", IS, IS-M, IS-MU) were several generations, and these systems were on alert. Moreover, at the end of the Cold War in the USSR, a similar system was created that allows reaching the goals at the geostationary station. The downside of such weapons systems, however, is the impossibility of mass use - to launch satellite interceptors into orbit, many launches of space rockets are needed, the capabilities of the cosmodromes of even the leading powers do not allow organizing more than several launches per day. Even if ballistic missiles are adapted for withdrawal, with the current military orbital groupings, for a hundred military vehicles, apart from the double, they simply cannot destroy the quickly needed satellites. Satellites equipped with reusable weapons, by and large, are still more theory than practice. Although the Russian "satellite-inspectors" of the "Level" type 14F150 (index and code are assumed) are suspected in the West of the presence of damage systems on them, and not just inspection, though of unknown type, and there is no solid evidence for this yet. It is not very clear to attribute the “inspector” in general to this classification item, or to the following

4. "Cosmos - cosmos" (non-kinetic). The satellite is put into orbit and uses non-kinetic means of destruction like powerful microwaves, electromagnetic pulses, jamming systems or other means to destroy or disable elements of another space-based system or its entirety.

There are no cases of using such a system in open sources, although Harrison notes that it will be difficult for outside observers to say whether this happened. So, through the mouth of its defense minister, France accused Russia of committing such acts in 2018, which Paris described as an attempt to intercept military communications. True, that satellite, which the French minister nodded to, refers to relay satellites, and not to spies.

Also, according to some sources, the Russian type of "satellite inspectors" belongs to this type of space weapon, but there is no evidence yet.

In general, the type of weapon in the classification is, and whether anyone has it at all is unclear. However, several countries hinted or announced plans to create one, including France.

5. Kinetic weapons "Space - Earth". Classics of science fiction, Hollywood cinema (such as the movie "Under Siege-2" with Russian citizen Stephen Seagal), political and journalistic scarecrows for the average man.

The ability to bombard an earthly target from outer space, according to ordinary people and Internet experts from the couch, will give true superiority to any country that receives and develops it. Damage can be done using the kinetic energy of the weapon itself, like nuclear and conventional warheads dropped from orbit, or something like laser beams. The US military has considered it in the past, but there are no open examples of how such a system was created or is being created by someone. Although ordinary people and couch experts and various politicians like to suspect the late Space Shuttles (without any reason, however), that is, the American reusable non-lethal reconnaissance vehicle X-37B.

In fact, such a weapon is absolutely hopeless. Firstly, weapons in orbit are much easier to remove from orbit than delivered ICBMs or SLBMs. Shoot down an orbital target is easier, it has a stable trajectory and constant speed. Unless, of course, there is a means to get to orbit.

Secondly, load shedding from orbit makes little sense at all. An orbital-based warhead (even single-turn or less than orbit, like the Soviet R-36orb) has a much larger mass, the required thermal protection, it needs brake engines to leave orbit, and, most importantly, it has very low accuracy even during ballistic descent. It is impossible for the orbital block to achieve the deviation values ​​that the ICBM warheads have long been capable of, or it is simply extremely difficult and will not pay for itself. Such a weapon is not a weapon of instant use either - it will take much more time to leave orbit than any ICBM to deliver “gifts” to the adversary. And the weapon of sudden use is also not. Descent from orbit will be detected before the launch of ICBMs is detected. As for the various "death rays" from orbit, the earth's atmosphere reliably protects against any such strikes from the target on the surface, in any case, the power of the rays that can be obtained by orbital means. Do not forget that the satellite does not hang over the desired point on the earth's surface and can visit it, as a rule, twice a day. With the exception of the geostationary orbit, but from there the load will be released for a very long time, tens of hours, and you will not get enough fuel and expensive. In general, this item is probably the most spectacular, but also the most useless in the classification. At least in the next few decades.

6. Non-kinetic system "Cosmos - Cosmos". A system that can hit a target by interfering with signals or by pointing spacecraft or ballistic missiles. The United States talked about the desire to use space-based laser systems based on nuclear-pumped x-ray lasers for missile defense, but this was in the 80s and has long been forgotten for unrealizability.

Two more points in conclusion


It seems to the author that Mr. Harrison has forgotten two more points. We are talking about the kinetic and non-kinetic weapons "Air - Space." These are airborne anti-satellite missiles. Like a closed American theme with the development of an ASAT missile armed with a specially converted F-15, a Soviet theme with a Contact missile on a lightweight and remade MiG-31D and the latest Russian Burevestnik missile (not to be confused with a ground-based cruise missile with a nuclear airborne jet engine) in service with the MiG-31BM fighter, also modified. There was also a similar development for the Tu-160 heavy bomber, in the 90s it was already offered as a platform for launching small satellites, but the project did not go then. As, however, and an attempt to convert the topic "Contact" on the same principle. But in recent times, Russia has returned to this topic.

This method of hitting satellites, like ground-based anti-satellite missiles, allows you to organize a massive attack on satellites. As well as air-based non-kinetic impact systems, in the form of laser installations on airplanes blinding and spoiling equipment - they, together with ground-based “colleagues”, are also capable of solving problems of massive counteraction to the enemy’s orbital grouping. Of course, this is only possible in wartime or just before the start of large-scale hostilities. But "minor tricks" to individual satellites by means of interference or disabling an interfering satellite in an implicit way are already possible in peacetime. In the Western press even completely exotic methods are discussed, such as small satellite inspectors who cover up the optical means of observing the adversary’s satellite with foam or paint. You can also say a word that you can read in the Paris toilet, write. But this is completely exotic.

Harrison does not include all anti-space potential, specifically excluding weapons that are based on the Earth and affect the communications and control of the orbital constellation there:

The form of anti-space weapons that are used to destroy or degrade our space systems can be a cruise missile launched at a ground communications station or control room. This may prevent us from using space. But I would not call it a space weapon, because it never goes into space and does not affect objects in orbit.

In a broad sense, we can expect that the development and deployment of space weapons will continue in the near future, Harrison reports, but with an emphasis on those capabilities that are used only for defensive measures - even if, as he noted, “the same system can be used in a different capacity. ”

In any case, it seems that all these anti-space weapons will develop actively in the coming decades, and not only in our country, where they are already actively developing. But it is Russia, acting from the position of its extremely solid potential in this matter, that advocates limiting this race. It is strange that the Americans do not agree, it is obvious that they again cherish plans to circumvent us in this aspect. And in vain they hope: Russia will not allow to achieve superiority over itself in such an important area.
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  1. rocket757 4 June 2020 05: 21 New
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    Arms systems, of course, are top class, but because of the high cost of the programs, no one particularly succeeded in this matter ... i.e. they can do it, but not all.
    And all right, there’s no need to add garbage to orbit.
  2. Kuroneko 4 June 2020 06: 06 New
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    Interestingly, and the theme of our unique "Diamonds" stalled?
    Those. even in the States now they are not considering the option when their satellites will be collapsed by space autocannons?


    The Shield-1 system, yes.
  3. Ercog 4 June 2020 06: 19 New
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    +1
    The ability to bombard an earthly target from outer space, according to ordinary people and Internet experts from the couch, will give true superiority to any country that receives and develops it. Damage can be done using the kinetic energy of the weapon itself, like nuclear and conventional warheads dropped from orbit, or something like laser beams. The US military has considered it in the past, but there are no open examples of how such a system was created or is being created by someone. Although ordinary people and couch experts and various politicians like to suspect the late Space Shuttles (without any reason, however), that is, the American reusable non-lethal reconnaissance vehicle X-37B.

    Two flying prototypes of the X-37B launch vehicle are already in service as part of the Air Force space experiment, which has been held since April 2010. These space planes are able to stay in orbit for a long time, change orbits, carry significant payloads to support a variety of tasks, and land on runways. And they can ... Knock down rockets launched from the ground. That is, to perform the functions of a fighter-interceptor. Only space.
    1. Krasnoyarsk 4 June 2020 09: 55 New
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      Quote: Ercog

      Two flying prototype X-37B launch vehicles are already in service as part of the Air Force space experiment, which has been held since April 2010

      That is why -
      = The US is actively resisting the conclusion of an agreement banning the deployment of weapons systems in space (currently there is only an agreement on nuclear weapons in orbit). =
      If the United States did not have the X-37, and we had something similar, they would cry out about the need to conclude an agreement banning the deployment of weapons systems in space.
      And if they refuse, then they are sure that we are behind in this area.
      1. Ercog 4 June 2020 18: 07 New
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        We have a Buran. And ... Rogozin's eagle.
        1. Krasnoyarsk 4 June 2020 18: 25 New
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          Quote: Ercog
          We have a Buran.

          What about?
          Quote: Ercog
          Rogozin's eagle.

          What, what, oh?
          1. Ercog 4 June 2020 19: 09 New
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            Curious how many “what-about” are the Rogozin trampoline?
            1. Krasnoyarsk 4 June 2020 19: 13 New
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              Quote: Ercog
              Curious how many “what-about” are the Rogozin trampoline?

              A lot of. Even when I first read about him. Now even more.
    2. Hwostatij 6 June 2020 17: 54 New
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      Will they hit a ballistic missile?))) You just won first place in an hour at a competition for demented vysers.)))
  4. Ercog 4 June 2020 06: 41 New
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    By the way, the Americans believe that the ability of the x-37b to shoot missiles launched from the ground in the near future (two years) eliminates the “missile problem” of rogue states: North Korea, Iran. And in the medium-term - Russia.
  5. Peter Tverdokhlebov 4 June 2020 08: 02 New
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    Harrison also “forgot” about the latest super-large radius air defense system, the S-500, which also has anti-satellite capabilities.

    Who said that the S-500 can destroy satellites? Nudol can, at least he was tested for conditional goals in space, but the S-500 is not!
  6. Operator 4 June 2020 12: 19 New
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    I still do not understand - what is the relation to weapons based in space, anti-satellite and anti-missile weapons based on land, in air and at sea? laughing
  7. gregor6549 5 June 2020 04: 14 New
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    Classification is a useful and necessary thing. But before delving into the subtleties of classification, it would be good to delve into some of the problems of the rocket and space industry in Russia. YouTube in your hands
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-BzlSi0C5k&feature=youtu.be