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AA 27/06/21: ANALYSIS - Space 2.0: Military, strategic competition on rise

Russia seems to have established power balance by siding with China with its nuclear weapons capacity. space experience.


The final statement of last week’s NATO summit in Brussels said the alliance would boost its political capacity and play a more active role in the face of emerging threats and challenges.

One of the threats was space, an issue which was brought up during the 2019 NATO leaders’ summit in London, where it was called one of the emerging areas of military action.

With the number of actors in outer space rising with the involvement of the private sector, dominance in space being considered a primary condition for establishing global hegemony, developed countries refining their defense and deterrence maneuvers for outer-space conditions, and the way the trajectory of a war breaking out in this domain could be changed with a new generation of weapons, space has once more become a strategically prominent zone.

Russia, China, France, and the US establishing space warfare doctrines by setting up space commands and appointing a significant number of military personnel – as well as the new defense weapon systems they have developed – for this purpose show that this new competition has taken on an institutional character.

Attacks on civilian and military satellites owned by countries in outer space are now considered casus belli or causes for war.

At NATO’s meeting earlier this month, a decision that its Article 5 would be followed by the other countries in case of such an attack on any of the 30 countries was added to the final declaration.

A new space unit was also formed within the alliance, with plans for outer space to be a big part of the “NATO 2030: United for a New Era” vision document to be adopted in 2022.

Space 2.0 and the China threat

Outer space (and especially its low Earth orbit, LEO, region), the earth’s natural satellite the moon, and other nearby planets have gained importance for countries that have access to space, once more, as important strategic fields for increasing their national power.

“Space 2.0” – i.e. the second space period in which outer space increases military capacities of countries as a “force multiplier” for military deterrence and strong defense – is now happening.

Initially, in the Cold War nuclear arms race, the Soviet Union gaining access to power in space by sending artificial satellites and executing manned low-orbit travel long before the US was very threatening and struck fear in the American government’s national security.

The 1969 moon landing with the Apollo project equalized the balance of power in outer space and also facilitated the development of air defense systems that could destroy nuclear missiles as soon as they entered outer space. Space studies faced a period of stagnation with the end of the Cold War, but gained new momentum again in 2003 with China’s first manned space flight.

Space research took on a multi-actor character with the involvement of American private-sector entrepreneurs in space missions and the space efforts of Israel, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Japan, in addition to the European Space Agency (ESA).

During Space 2.0, this time in addition to Russia, China also began to be perceived as a threat by the US and its allies.

The final statement of the NATO leaders’ summit said that China was investing in destructive new technologies that are capable of changing the nature of warfare and challenging the security of the alliance in the international arena. China’s rise in both the economy and military technology was also brought up.

New weapons and war technologies being developed with outer space in mind stand out as the most significant point. In this context, statements indicating that China’s efforts to become a global power do not stem from peaceful intentions also reflect the perception of a threat.

China, which plans to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, is constantly developing autonomous weapon systems directed by electromagnetic spectrum weapons and new technologies with 5G connectivity, as well as new applications in the field of quantum teleportation and biotechnology, based on this technology. The Chinese army in 2015 published a book focusing on a new concept of “The war or Light” using autonomous and directed energy weapon systems based on big data and artificial intelligence.

China’s autonomous robot, which this January made the first landing on the dark side of the moon, did electromagnetic experiments while also collecting material from the lunar surface. It could be argued that China, which continues these tests in line with light warfare, plans to implement this new war concept by 2030 with autonomous and directed electromagnetic spectrum weapons that can be placed on satellites – laser and high-power microwave weapons. This concept of light warfare was conceived, primarily, to be a laser-built air defense system that rapidly destroys hypersonic missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

While international space law necessitates peaceful intentions to fuel space activities, in 2007 China did an exercise targeting military satellites of some rival countries.

China has also demonstrated its military capability and readiness for satellite wars by shooting down one of its own meteorological satellites from Earth. In addition, if we consider that the main structure of satellite and weapon systems in outer space is formed using information technology infrastructures, cyber threats are also attached to the space field and, also, it would be expected that the cyberweapons of a country that has become the leader in artificial intelligence technology would be destructive.

The possibility of China developing cyber software systems that could disable all satellites in outer space is not out of the realm of possibility either, considering that China is competing for the leading spot in outer space as well. Anti-satellite weapon systems, and especially space-based laser weapon systems, are among the next-generation weapons that China values greatly.

In a 2019 “white paper” on China’s new defense strategies, outer space was defined as a critical area in international strategic competition and the ensuring of security in outer space was stated to be a priority issue for national and social development.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has asked the military to develop new doctrines and concepts in space and create “Space Domain Awareness” for satellites orbiting the Earth.

China continues to develop the modules of the permanent Tiangong space station, which will be completed in 2024 and shot into the LEO region, with the last three taikonauts it has sent. This space station has gigantic robotic arms that extend up to 10 meters and could grasp a 20-ton space object. Apart from hitting with missiles, destroying with lasers, and deactivating with cyberweapons – as well as blinding other countries’ satellites – the threat of this station capturing other countries' satellites via these robotic arms was voiced by the US, and China’s low-orbit modular space station was seen as a military base and considered dangerous in this respect.

Space alliances

The T-shaped space station, where medical and biological virus experiments can be conducted in a low-gravity environment, is considered to be the new lab environment where China would continue its studies in this area. Under the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, life support units and plant/waterwaste systems will also be included in the station.

Since the International Space Station will in effect be terminated in 2024, China wants to replace this mission with its own space station.

In fact, to make transparent the work done in their international space station, which is still under construction, China invited countries that want to do scientific studies at this station in 2018, together with the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The selected countries – Russia, Belgium, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Poland, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Switzerland – will be able to take part in research conducted at this station on space medicine, biotechnology, low gravity, the effects of space radiation, and growing plants in space. The junction units, or connection ports, of the station, designed to have the ability to continually increase its capacity, were developed to handle the articulation of modules launched using different spacecraft.

In addition to the space station, China will launch its own modular Xuntian, or Heavenly Cruiser, telescope, which is similar to the Hubble telescope but boasting an image quality that is 300 times better, to the LEO region close to its space station to detect near-earth asteroids, support Chinese space mining activities, and contribute to other planetary studies.

The telescope will also play an important role in describing the target points for newly developed space-based laser weapons to hit enemy satellites. The deployable membrane telescope can focus on the laser hitting the target while the ground-based radar detects target satellites. From a military standpoint, it could be assumed that China is placing support systems in low orbit for possible light warfare.

China, which will launch about 40 space objects in 2021, is operating with the same values as the US, sending its spacecraft to Mars soon after the US. It would not be inaccurate to say that Russia is also supporting all these space programs.

An anti-satellite warfare system was conceived by the Russians in the Cold War against the US. The Russians, who built the first Space Station Mir, had encouraged the Chinese to have stations in this area, and the two countries agreed this March to establish a joint lunar outpost, either on the moon or in its orbit. Russia, which is seen as a potential threat by NATO, seems to have created a power balance by siding with China with its strong nuclear weapons capacity and space experience.

In this context, the space activities of the Quad alliance countries in the Asia-Pacific region – Japan, South Korea, India, and Australia – are also supported by the US against China.

Turkish Space Forces

The US government, which lags behind its rival in terms of combat power in outer space, has a strategy to try to interrupt its rivals by bringing international law to the fore.

The Outer Space Treaty was signed in 1967 following the manned space flights after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik into space in 1957. Similar to this strategy, the Artemis Accords signed between the US and eight countries today can be seen as a first step toward stopping the activities of China and Russia on this satellite. NATO has declared that the military activities of its rivals will not be without response, adding to its declaration that it will adhere to international agreements to make sure space does not become militarily armed. In addition, the rapid fall of the two spacecraft that China has sent so far posing a threat to the world’s surface is being used by the US to convince the world to stand against these activities by China.

The activation of the Turkish Space Forces, which was previously planned to be established in the central Eskisehir province under the Turkish Armed Forces and whose organizational structure was determined, was also decided to contribute to NATO’s future space unit.

A new force field which will closely monitor the safety of our satellites in outer space will be a separate unit from the Turkish Air Force.

It is envisioned that the Turkish Space Forces, which will prepare for the activities of NATO’s new space mission, will contribute to the development of the army regarding the space defense and weapon systems developed within the alliance. Thus, Turkey’s rapid integration into emerging areas that are strategically alarming will be achieved as well.

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