The LA Times is reporting that the Chinese are developing a number of space-based weapons, including lasers and rail guns, designed to blind or destroy American satellites in the event of war between the two countries. If China succeeds in deploying such weapons without an American response, it will gain an insurmountable strategic advantage. While the United States is developing such weapons, it has studiously avoided any idea of deploying them in space, preferring to mount them on ships and planes.

The American military is heavily dependent on satellites to wage war, Communication satellites ensure instant networking of combat units with command and control centers that are often on the other side of the world, not to mention the operation of unpiloted drones.

GPS aids in the navigation of both crewed and uncrewed craft such as ships, planes, and missiles. Reconnaissance satellites ensure that the military knows where enemy targets are at all times. Without these satellites, the United States military would be thrown back decades in its ability to operate.

Measures that the United States could take include hardening its satellites against attack, finding ways to neutralize Chinese weapons platforms such as deploying its own space weapons and subjecting then to cyber attack, and develop ways to rapidly replace destroyed of neutralized satellites. The American military is going to have to do these things quickly. The first Chinese laser battle station could be operational in the early 2020s.

While the American military and civilian space programs are bifurcated, the Chinese effort is one and the same. That means that every “civilian” Chinese space mission has a military component, whether it is the building of a space station to the efforts to land astronauts on the moon. American military planners are going to have to take that fact into account as well.

The sad truth of the matter is that any future superpower confrontation is likely to start in space as each side fights to achieve domination of the region surrounding the Earth. The side that achieves space domination will have, in effect, taken the high ground and will have a devastating advantage as a result.