WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Our modern society relies on satellites for almost everything now, which makes them prime military targets.
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A planned portable electronic satellite jamming system designed to combat Chinese and Russian space capabilities is nearing completion, Bloomberg reported. Called Meadowlands and developed by L3 Harris Technologies, the project was due for delivery last year but will come in 2024 at the earliest.
The new war gear, once delivered, will feature radar-like dishes mounted on wheeled trailers to make it as portable as possible, and US Space Force officials announced plans to produce up to 30 units.
Problems encountered during testing “have been resolved, and the program is moving into its final integration and test phases,” the Space Systems Command said in a statement. It added that “the technical issues were due to unexpected challenges that required complex reworks of subassemblies.”
Charles Clarkson, L3Harris general manager for space superiority, said the company worked with the command to increase testing to ensure the jammer “will have more robust operational execution and reduced risk”.
Although military officials have been forthcoming about the offensive capabilities of China and Russia, they have been reluctant to disclose their methods for defending against US satellites from potential attacks in space.
During an Air Force Association symposium, Major General David Miller, the director of operations for the Space Force, stated that the question of whether space is a warfighting domain was resolved by the US Congress when they established the Space Force.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s yearly threat assessment, China possesses weaponry designed to attack satellites belonging to the US and its allies.
Officials added that the new jamming system would not create space debris because it emits energy designed to cause temporary, “reversible” interference of communication satellites. The Meadowlands program is estimated to cost around $219 million and is a more streamlined version of the “Counter Communications System” that became operational in early 2020.
Instead of the previous system’s 14 equipment racks, Meadowlands features radar-like dishes mounted on wheeled trailers with only two racks, which allows for simpler deployment.
“The decreased footprint and increased capacity of Meadowlands will significantly improve its utility” over the Counter Communications System, said Charles Galbreath, senior resident fellow at the Air Force Association who has just completed a counter-space study sponsored by the Air Force Association. Meadowlands has multiple potential targets in China and is designed for transportation and deployment overseas.
According to Major General Gregory Gagnon, the deputy chief of Space Operations for Intelligence in the Space Force, approximately half of China’s 700+ satellites are utilised for remote sensing, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
“Their on-orbit armada of satellites can track us, can sense us, can see us, can connect that data to their fires network and can now hold US forces at risk in a way we have never understood or had to face to date,” Gagnon added.