September 25, 2004
Does the U.S. Air Force have adequate defenses for American space satellites? So far they appear to, but theres some doubt that this will be the case in the future. The United States armed forces are more dependant on space based systems (for communication, navigation and reconnaissance) than any other country. This, naturally, makes the several hundred military and commercial satellites, that provide these services, a target for anyone planning to take on American troops. So far, there has been only one attempt to attack these space based capabilities. This happened during the 2003 Iraq war, where the Iraqis turned on some GPS jammers they had purchased from a Russian firm. The American air force had a weapon ready for this; smart bombs that homed in on GPS jammer signals. The Russian jammers were quickly destroyed and the war went on without any other attacks on American satellite capabilities.
But in the meantime there have been other successful attacks on commercial satellite systems. The Iranian embassy in Cuba was caught jamming the satellite connection for an Iranian language channel based in California. In China, members of the Falungong religious group, long persecuted by the government, have cut into Chinese satellite transmissions, and replaced the regular TV programming with Falungongs version of the situation. Then theres the long standing, but still untried, threat of killer satellites. American satellite security experts have been at work to foresee threats to U.S. satellites, and develop defenses and countermeasures. That worked in Iraq in 2003, and has worked in several other, less publicized incidents, where attempts were made to mess with the ground control aspect of military satellite systems. But there will always be the threat of a new form of attack that American satellite security experts have not foreseen, or have, but were unable to develop an effective countermeasure. Its only a matter of time before the other guy gets lucky. We can only hope that they dont hit the jackpot.