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What the U.S. Military Fears Most: A Massive Space War

What the U.S. Military Fears Most: A Massive Space War

The consequences of space warfare could be comparable to those of nuclear war--and the U.S. military is getting ready. 

Overall, the United States is getting far more serious about the threat of space warfare. Investment in new technologies is increasing, and the organizational architecture to deal with such a contingency is being put in place. In the race between shield and sword, however, there is no guarantee that offensive ASAT capabilities will not have the advantage, potentially denying critical access to space during a catastrophic celestial war.

The High Cost of a War in Space:

Increased competition in space is reviving fears of a war there, one with devastating consequences. Humanity depends on space systems for communication, exploration, navigation and a host of other functions integral to modern life. Moreover, future breakthroughs may await in space, including solar energy improvements, nuclear waste disposal and extraterrestrial mining.

A war in space would disable a number of key satellites, and the resulting debris would place vital orbital regions at risk. The damage to the world economy could also be disastrous. In severity, the consequences of space warfare could be comparable to those of nuclear war. What's more, disabling key constellations that give early launch warnings could be seen as the opening salvo in a nuclear attack, driving the threat of a wider conflagration.

While the United States and other nations are taking measures to better prepare for a potential war in space, their emphasis will likely remain on deterrence. This is an important notion to understand, not only for potential U.S. enemies but also for the United States itself. For instance, it is conceivable that technological advancements in the coming decades could allow the United States to recover militarily from a space clash more quickly than the ever-more space dependent China or Russia. In such a scenario, the costs that a space war would have for the world as a whole might be enough to dissuade Washington from launching its own space attack.

This article, originally titled " Avoiding a War in Space ”, is republished with permission of Stratfor.