Gen. David Thompson of the U.S. Space Force spoke candidly with a Washington Post reporter during the Halifax International Security Forum, which occurred between Nov. 19 and 21 this year.
“The threats are really growing and expanding every single day,” Thompson said. “And it’s really an evolution of activity that’s been happening for a long time. We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.”
Thompson, the vice-chief of space operations, labeled the attacks as “reversible,” meaning no permanent damage to satellites, but the attacks occur “every single day,” The Washington Post reported.
Thompson did not comment on any possible permanent or significant damage from such attacks, but he cautioned that the Chinese “are actually well ahead” of Russia, fielding operational systems “at an incredible rate.”
China particularly has greatly expanded its satellite constellations to include a number of new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellites at twice the rate of the U.S.
“We are still the best in the world, clearly in terms of capability,” Thompson explained. “They’re catching up quickly. We should be concerned by the end of this decade if we don’t adapt.”
Secretary Frank Kendall told Reuters on Tuesday, “There is an arms race, not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality.”
“It’s an arms race that has been going on for quite some time,” he said. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively.”
Some military officials and experts have recently urged greater development and deployment of satellites to boost the U.S. military’s constellations around the planet in order to strengthen the fidelity of sensing, particularly in response to a successful Chinese hypersonic weapons test.
John Venable of the Heritage Foundation told Fox News in October that adding more satellites was one of the “two big things” the government needs to do in order to keep pace with China’s development.
“Any time you have a high flashpoint on the ground, there’s an array out there called the Space-Based Infrared System, and we can detect just about any major launch or explosion on the face of the Earth, but the ability to track those once they actually leave the atmosphere and start their trajectory is complicated by the movement of these vehicles,” he said.
Air Force Col. Kristopher Struve echoed similar concerns, saying “it’s that ability to provide a warning to our national leadership, what that threat is” that concerns officials the most.
The Space Force did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.