15 March 2011

The Year of the Tiger: China’s Spy Satellite Surge in 2010

Ian Easton, The Year of the Tiger: China’s Spy Satellite Surge in 2010,” AsiaEye, 14 March 2011.

… China made a key breakthrough in 2010 with the launch of the three-satellite Yaogan 9 constellation, reported to be a Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS), capable of using time difference of arrival techniques to triangulate and target radar emitting carrier strike groups and other warships of interest with long-range missiles. These satellites appear particularly well-placed to fill a gap in China’s “carrier killer” anti-ship missile programs, which include both ballistic and cruise missiles designed to evade (or destroy) the air defenses surrounding U.S. aircraft carriers.

Chinese sources indicate that operational tests have been successfully conducted to link these spy satellites to anti-ship missiles for targeting mobile targets on land and at sea. Falling within the range of these missiles are assets belonging to the United States as well as allied and friendly nations in the Western Pacific. China’s surging military satellite deployments has created the ability to monitor contentious territorial claims, and potentially enforce them vis-à-vis coercive missile diplomacy. With Chinese satellite launches set upon an upward trajectory in the next two years, countries around the world may be hard pressed to hide from China’s unblinking digital eyes in space.