WASHINGTON Feb 4 The Pentagon is mulling ways
to curb its reliance on its eyes and ears in space, concerned
about a perceived threat to its satellites from China, a top
Air Force official said Thursday.
Gary Payton, deputy under secretary for space programs,
voiced concern at Beijing's display last month of technology
aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air, an area in which
Washington has invested hundreds of billions of dollars to
build a layered antimissile bulwark.
"They're still openly testing them in a very dynamic
environment above the atmosphere," he said of a reportedly
successful Chinese missile-defense test. He equated this with
Beijing's demonstration of antisatellite technology that
pulverized one of its own weather satellites in January 2007.
"It wasn't that much different," Payton told a forum on the
space budget organized by the Space Foundation, a nonprofit
that promotes the use of space. "It's a threat that we have to
learn how to overcome."
Asked whether China had been trying to jam U.S. satellites
or to use lasers to disrupt them, as U.S. officials have
alleged in the past, Payton said: "I can't talk about that."
The United States demonstrated an anti-satellite capability
of its own, using a specially modified Raytheon Co (RTN.N)
Standard Missile-3 to destroy a wayward U.S. spy satellite in
"Obviously, I can't go into gory details about what the
intelligence community tells me the bad guys are doing," he
But Payton believes that viable solutions and options are
needed other than satellites to counteract any threat.
Google Inc, which owns the world's most popular Internet
search engine, sparked a furor last month over what it
described as wide-ranging attacks in cyberspace, allegedly from
inside China, on its intellectual property and more than 20
other companies in finance, technology, media and chemicals.
U.S.-China ties were jolted further last week by Beijing's
anger at proposed arms sales to Taiwan totaling $6.4 billion,
which Beijing deems interference in its internal affairs.
The Obama administration is seeking $718 million in fiscal
2011 in unclassified funding for "space protection," up 13
percent from $635 million this year, the Air Force said in an
email. The Air Force plans to award a contract in the summer of
2011 for a "Space Fence" to boost its ability to monitor
satellites and broaden its grasp of orbital activities.
As the Air Force's top official for space, Payton oversees
the formulation, review and execution of billions of dollars in
U.S. military space programs. Major U.S. satellite makers
include Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Boeing Co (BA.N) and
Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N).
Overall, the Air Force is seeking $11.4 billion for
unclassified military space programs in the coming budget year,
which starts Oct. 1, down as much as seven percent from this
year. Of the total, $8 billion would buy hardware plus research
and development, down from $8.7 billion in fiscal 2010.
The Defense Department is working on a major review of its
space "posture" to be completed later this year, after a
similar inter-agency effort for the White House.
Payton said an interim version of the department's space
review prepared for Congress concluded that space had become
"contested and congested."
It predicts the situation "is only going to get worse," he
said, "And so, we have to come up with ways to continue our
missions without launching the U.S. Missouri each time" -- an
apparent reference to systems that would bypass the need to
operate in space.
"It's got to do with distributing our assets, developing
work-arounds," Payton said. "Maybe everything we do in space
today doesn't have to be done in space today."
For instance, he said, communications relays could be done
from remotely piloted aircraft such as the Global Hawk, built
by Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), or Predator, made by
privately held General Atomics.
Aircraft can also be used more for intelligence collecting,
surveillance and reconnaissance, Payton said. More is also to
be spent on protecting satellite communications through
encryption and frequency hopping.
The U.S. Defense Department is linking its Global
Positioning System with Europe's Galileo, another space-based
global navigation satellite system. GPS will feature a new
military signal called M-code to boost anti-jamming, facilitate
secure access and increase the local signal strength.
"So, all of our missions are responding to the problems
that threaten our missions," Payton said.