Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond, commander, U.S. Space Command and Air Force Space Command, delivers a salute to service members at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

In a gang fight, two against one, is not fair.

There is an unwritten code, that that is just not a kosher thing to do, even if you are a gangsta looking for trouble.

But in love and war, different rules apply.

According to a report by Abraham Mahshie at Air Force Magazine, there is a rising concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin may link up with China to develop space weapons that could stop American’s war machine in its tracks.

Make no mistake, the Pentagon is sweating bullets over this one.

Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond has warned that America’s adversaries are already operating as if space was a war fighting domain, exhibiting ground and space-based weapons capabilities.

House Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith admitted that satellite survivability and redundancy were his priorities, but a closer look at the US$17.4 billion Space Force budget was also necessary, the report said.

“I don’t think ‘catch-up,’ is the right word,” Smith said when asked about American space weapons compared to adversaries in a Defense Writers Group discussion. “We’re not behind in this area.”

Exactly what that means is anybody’s guess, but the Washington state Democrat said his priorities were cost-effective launch and the survivability of satellites, along with command-and-control systems.

The dropping cost of launch in America’s domestic capability (NASA identified the cost of sending astronauts to the ISS aboard a Soyuz rocket at US$81 million per seat) has had the dual effect of robbing Russia of needed dollars to support its military space program, retired Col. Douglas Loverro said at a June 28 Center for Strategic and International Studies forum.

Loverro, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy from 2013 to 2017, also described Russia’s July 2020 test of a co-orbital satellite that aligned with an American spy satellite and allegedly fired a projectile in space, the report said.

The Pentagon asserts that “China and Russia present the greatest strategic threat due to their development, testing, and deployment of counterspace capabilities and their associated military doctrine for employment in conflict extending to space.” Credit: Handout.

“They view this as a decisive factor,” Loverro said. “Certainly, they are building the means, as best we can tell, to go ahead and make sure that they can eliminate US space capabilities if war does occur.”

Sources say, Moscow is clearly looking at using a satellite to kill another.

Interest is growing given our reliance upon satellites for a variety of purposes such as intelligence gathering, communications, navigation and early-warning.

A satellite-killing spacecraft — also known as an anti-satellite weapon, or ASAT — could also visit and cripple spy satellites, say, by placing a small disabling explosive charge on them, or using a robot arm to disable their solar panels.

The Russian capability is despite a drop in oil prices that has cut into Moscow’s revenue coupled with crushing American sanctions related to the invasion of Crimea in 2014, the report said.

Its commercial space and launch programs have also taken a hit in recent years.

Loverro said Russia’s 10-year space development budget, released in 2016, called for US$53 billion, but Moscow could only afford to commit US$10 billion.

Diplomatically, Russia is trying to reign in US efforts by going ahead and aligning with China and other BRIC nations [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa],” he added, describing UN efforts to limit the presence of weapons in space.

Russia and China “sprinted” in submitting a UN resolution in 2008 to limit space weapons, an attempt to “slow down” American progress in this area, Loverro said.

But recently, the two co-operated on the Chinese space station and signed a memorandum of understanding on a potential lunar base.

Commercial co-operation between two of America’s chief space adversaries can easily extend to military applications, the expert panel argued, even though historical differences may arise.

“Russia has experience on deception in space,” Loverro said. “Russia has experience that is incredibly valuable to a technologically advanced, but operationally inexperienced China.”

Former commander of US Strategic Command and Air Force Space Command, retired Gen. C. Robert Kehler spoke to his Cold War-era knowledge.

“I think it remains to be seen what that partnership really does,” he said.

“During the Cold War, from my perspective, when Russia and China said that they were working together, they were going to co-operate on things, they have never seemed to me to be natural partners,” Kehler explained. “I don’t know it’s going to result in anything that’s meaningful here.”

The State Department’s top arms control official, Christopher Ford, offered this take on Russia and China’s push to sign a treaty banning such weapons to the Financial Post in March of this year.

Ford said Russia’s “hypocritical advocacy” of outer space arms control, “with which Moscow aims to restrict the capabilities of the United States while clearly having no intention of halting its own counterspace program — both ground-based anti-satellite capabilities and what would appear to be actual in-orbit anti-satellite weaponry.”

Unfortunately, saying one thing and doing the opposite is common in international diplomacy.

Sources: Air Force Magazine, BBC News, New Scientist, Financial Post