Thursday, September 28, 2023

China is using low-orbit satellites to monitor military maneuvers by the US

While dozens of high-tech warships and war equipment from the United States, Japan, Australia and India are stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan as part of the annual Malabar joint exercise, China has hundreds of low-orbit satellites to gather intelligence about the maneuvers, the development of which is now going into the last day.

The origins of Exercise Malabar date back to 1992 when it began as an annual bilateral naval exercise between India and the United States. However, it has since evolved to include the four Indo-Pacific partner countries that make up the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), which also includes Japan and Australia.

The drills, long criticized by China, are seen as a collective response by the Quad nations to safeguard stability and security in the Indo-Pacific amid growing concerns about the growing influence and scale of Chinese activities in the region.

While conducting the joint drills, a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) revealed that China has taken active steps to monitor the Malabar drills and collect data. According to the report, many of China’s low-orbit (LEO) satellites are strategically positioned over Australia and are systematically gathering intelligence on military training missions.

The ABC, citing commercial space data, reveals the extent of Beijing’s surveillance activities during the recent conclusion of the Talisman Saber Exercise and the ongoing Malabar Exercise.

The report added that EOS Space Systems, a Canberra-based defense company, monitored the movements of three Chinese geostationary satellites in July. These satellites were strategically placed on the equatorial line to closely monitor the Talisman Saber war games in northern Australia.

The Chinese satellite Shijian 12-01 was identified as it gradually drifted west over the northern region of Australia.

At the same time, satellites Shijian-17 and Shijian-23 were tracked as they maneuvered east, allowing them to observe and collect data in several key areas where these exercises were taking place.

Through a systematic approach, the company also collected optical surveillance data from Chinese Earth observation satellites during the Talisman Saber and Malabar exercises.

The Canberra-based company’s analysis shows the significant activity of Chinese satellites in studying ground operations during these events.

EOS Space Systems also revealed that more than 300 satellites meticulously monitor ground activities during military exercises. In particular, there have been more than 3,000 overflights since the start of the Malabar exercise, which focused on Sydney Harbour.

The scenario of possible intelligence gathering via satellites draws parallels to recent events, notably earlier this year when a Chinese spy balloon flew at high altitude over US territory.

Reports then surfaced that in January 2022, a similar high-altitude balloon was observed in the skies over India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The latest report highlights that the significant presence of Chinese geostationary and low-orbit satellites over Australia provides Beijing with an unprecedented detailed and continuous surveillance capability. This allows them to monitor activities on land and at sea in great detail.

Debadatta Mishra, a former chief scientist at the Indian Space Research Agency (ISRO), told the EurAsian Times that China’s deployment of low-orbit satellites, which take advantage of their low-latency advantage, allows it to monitor such activity with ease.

However, he emphasized that this capability is not a new development. In the past, even the US and Russia used their satellites to monitor other nations’ military exercises.

Mishra, who currently serves as COO of Erisha Space Private Limited, further added that while the satellites perform a diverse range of tasks, ranging from weather forecasting to broadcasting, it remains undeniable that their development is primarily strategic and defense targets served.

Drawing attention to a specific case where the United States was monitoring India by satellite at the time of the New Delhi nuclear test, the former ISRO scientist noted that all major space powers had similar capabilities and often used them to advance their strategic interests . .

However, he pointed out that Beijing’s use of LEO satellites to monitor military exercises conducted by the quad nations demonstrates Beijing’s ambition to expand its strategic capabilities.

Meanwhile said Dr. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Institute for Strategic Policy: “This is what future intelligence from space will look like: with swarms of small satellites working in a coordinated manner to enable long-range surveillance from Earth orbit.”

Davis explained that following the current Australian government’s decision to abandon the National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO) program in favor of a reallocation of funds for fiscal consolidation, Canberra needs to focus on future capabilities.

According to Davis, Australia with a focus on space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs to learn lessons from the case, especially when it comes to future defense-oriented space projects like DEF 799 Phase 2.

He further pointed out that it was crucial not to repeat the mistake of adopting outdated paradigms and investing in a limited number of large and expensive satellites that would subsequently produce a fragile and highly specialized capability.

The path of progress lies in the widespread deployment of constellations within Low Earth Orbit (LEO), an approach that should be pursued in the future.

The report also mentioned that the deployment of these satellites could allow China to obtain intelligence on deployed capabilities and equipment, as well as operational procedures in military ground operations.

This information gathered could later be used to obtain extensive intelligence on military activity in Australia.

The importance of space as a fundamental arena for modern global warfare continues to grow exponentially, and this expansion is particularly evident in the concerted and significant investments of China, aimed at positioning itself ahead of the United States in this new space race.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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