K. Vorontsov at the thematic discussion in the UN General Assembly, October 26. Photo by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Space infrastructure, built on the basis of satellites for various purposes, is of particular importance for the military and civil spheres. Accordingly, in certain circumstances, it becomes a priority target for a strike aimed at reducing the combat potential of the enemy. Recently, Russian diplomacy recalled the risks and threats associated with this state of affairs.
On October 26, the First Committee of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly held a thematic discussion on the section "Space (disarmament aspects)". Konstantin Vorontsov, Deputy Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control of the Russian Foreign Ministry and Deputy Head of the Russian Delegation, spoke at this event. In his speech, he listed the current challenges and problems in the space sector, and also pointed out Russia's readiness to take the necessary measures.
In the context of the military use of outer space, K. Vorontsov mentioned a negative trend that can be observed right now, in the course of events in Ukraine. The United States and its allies use not only the spacecraft of their armed forces to solve military problems, but also the equipment of the civilian and commercial sectors.
In fact, such activity in space is indirect participation in an armed conflict. Because of this, dual-use “quasi-civilian infrastructure” used by such a party to the conflict may be considered a legitimate target for retaliatory strikes.
A GPS satellite in an assembly shop. Photos Lockheed Martin
K. Vorontsov pointed out that all this could lead to the most serious consequences. The defeat of the quasi-civilian space infrastructure puts activities in space at risk, and also threatens various socio-economic processes on the planet. The well-being of the inhabitants of the Earth depends on the latter, incl. in developing states.
Such provocative use of spacecraft is inconsistent with the Outer Space Treaty and the international community is invited to condemn it. In addition, the Russian side has developed a number of measures aimed at improving the situation in space and eliminating the emergence of new risks.
It is known that the United States and other NATO countries use their space groupings to support the Kyiv regime. There is also information about specific ways to help, about the funds involved, etc. It is curious that some aspects of such assistance are officially confirmed, while others are hidden and information about them comes from unofficial sources.
Reconnaissance satellites, mostly American, are almost constantly present over the war zone over Ukraine. With their help, optical and infrared surveys of various areas are carried out, and electronic intelligence is also conducted. The collected data is processed and transferred to Ukrainian formations to organize operations.
Commercial organizations with their own constellations, such as Maxar, etc., are involved in satellite reconnaissance. Such firms provide Kyiv with various data and photographs, as well as openly publish some materials. In particular, they showed the consequences of various Ukrainian strikes and terrorist attacks.
Laser complex "Peresvet" - presumably, a means of suppressing reconnaissance satellites. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Due to the quasi-civilian infrastructure, communication is also provided. Back in the spring, a large number of terminals of the Internet company Starlink appeared in Ukraine. In addition, communication satellites of this system are regularly deployed over the Ukrainian territory. In certain circumstances, Starlink turns out to be perhaps the only stable communication system at the disposal of Ukrainian formations.
Also in the context of dual-use technologies, the American GPS navigation system can be mentioned. It is open to civilian users, but is actively used by Ukrainian armed groups. In particular, some types of high-precision weapons are used with its help.
Thus, foreign space groups make a significant contribution to the current combat capability of Ukrainian formations. With their help, a wide range of tasks is solved, from banal movement along routes to identifying and attacking targets using imported weapons. At the same time, satellites of commercial operators make a significant contribution to such processes - and we can talk about their transition to the dual-use category.
Methods of struggle
K. Vorontsov said that the quasi-civilian space infrastructure used by the military could also be considered a legitimate target for strikes. He did not develop this topic, but the press and industry experts took his words as a transparent hint at Russia's intentions and ability - if necessary - to use anti-satellite systems.
Layout of the launcher of the Nudol missile defense system. Photo bmpd.livejournal.com
Indeed, the Russian armed forces already have several complexes for influencing spacecraft for various purposes in different orbits, suppressing or destroying them. In addition, the existence of several other systems is assumed, and in the near future new complexes will enter the army.
A few years ago, the Peresvet laser complex took up combat duty. According to some reports, a mobile system of this type is intended for optoelectronic suppression of reconnaissance satellites. A directed laser beam should temporarily or permanently disable the optics of an enemy spacecraft, excluding shooting.
There are also means of electronic warfare of various types. So, recently it has been repeatedly reported that foreign electronic intelligence satellites, while working on Russia, encountered interference and could not receive useful signals.
Abroad, it is assumed that the Russian army has anti-satellite cyber weapons. As proof of this version, the incident with the Viasat KA-SAT satellite used by the armed formations of Ukraine is cited. On February 24, this device suddenly broke down due to software problems, and the Kyiv regime began to have serious communication difficulties. Recently, a report was released in the United States on Russia's involvement in this incident.
The defeat of the inactive satellite USA-193 by the American SM-3 missile, 2008. Photo by the US Department of Defense
It is assumed that Russia also has a space anti-satellite weapon in the form of a so-called. inspector satellites. Abroad, it has been repeatedly reported about Russian vehicles actively maneuvering in orbits and approaching the equipment of third countries. It is assumed that after approaching they can perform certain operations, incl. for the purpose of suppression or destruction.
Finally, as part of the development of the strategic missile defense system, the Nudol complex is being developed. It is believed that its guided missiles are capable of hitting targets not only in descending ballistic trajectories, but also in orbits. At the same time, the exact characteristics and capabilities of such an ABM / PKO system are unknown, which contributes to the emergence of the most daring versions.
Thus, the Russian army, using the available means, is already capable of influencing the satellite constellation of a potential enemy. Apparently, so far we are talking only about the suppression of optics and electronic systems, but in the future there may be opportunities for full-fledged interception and destruction. The range and height reach of such systems is unknown. It can be assumed that they will cover at least most of the country's territory, along with strategic facilities.
Treaty of the future
The armed forces of developed countries are trying to build their own satellite constellations with devices for various purposes. The need for such "constellations" is obvious, and current events in Ukraine confirm this again. At the same time, it turns out that military tasks can also be solved with the help of civilian space infrastructure. As a result, a commercial satellite becomes as much a target as a specialized military vehicle.
Such a situation cannot be called correct or safe, incl. for third countries and parties. It needs additional regulation, and it is necessary to develop and adopt new regulations and international agreements, as well as ensure their implementation. Russia has already proposed the main theses of a future treaty on activities in outer space. And in the current situation, in order to avoid negative consequences, one should listen to such a proposal.