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Space Government United States Politics

U.S. Deploys Orbital Communications Jammer 619

kpwoodr writes "An interesting article at the Washington Times makes note of a recent satellite launch by the U.S. It seems we have put a jammer in space that will allow us to disrupt enemy communication systems at will. From the article: 'The U.S. military is bracing for future attacks in space, and the Air Force has deployed an electronic-warfare unit capable of jamming enemy satellites, the general in charge of space defenses says. "You can't go to war and win without space."'"
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U.S. Deploys Orbital Communications Jammer

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  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:37PM (#13625048) Homepage
    Man has killed man from the beginning of time, and each new frontier has brought new ways and new places to die. Why should the future be different?
    • by Stanistani ( 808333 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:43PM (#13625110) Homepage Journal
      "We're not talking about weaponizing space. We're not talking about massive satellite attacks coming over the horizon or anything like that. This is really a way to understand space situational awareness, who's out there, who's operating. We understand that," Gen. Lord said.

      On a more comic-book note, it's kinda fun that the United States Space Force is run by "General Lance Lord!" *cue dramatic music*
      • by stupidfoo ( 836212 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:49PM (#13625161)
        You've saved the world this time, General Lance Lord, but mark my words, I'll be back!
      • by MoralHazard ( 447833 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:54PM (#13625223)
        I beg to differ about the definition of a weapon, here. Anything that you take to war, from your rifles and tanks to your canteens, first-aid kits, and radios, is a weapon.

        Moreso even than the items you're using to actively kill people, the support equipment will help determine how effectively you can fight. Body armor is a case-in-point, here: troops with effective personal body armor suffer less casualties, and are therefore more reliable in combat and less costly to support... meaning you can have a LOT more of them in the field. Also, effective armor allows soldiers to take risks in combat that they would otherwise shirk from: if one side is more willing to stick it's heads up and take shots than the other side is (because of a body armor disparity), the former can be more aggressive and tactically effective.

        But communications, both in use and denial-of-use, are the REALLY important thing. You can be in command of Starship Troopers armed with nuclear warheads, and it's not going to win you any battles against horse-riding Indians with flintlocks if they're in communication and aware, and you're not.

        Reminds me of one of my favorite sayings about cops: Police aren't effective because of their uniforms, badges, guns, or nightsticks, they're effective because of their radios.
        • You can define "weapon" anyway you like, if you want to define it as "anything you take to war" that's up to you. Most people however do not use the term in that way . . . if they were smoking what you're smoking it might be different.
          • by dfjunior ( 774213 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @08:08PM (#13626106)
            I'm *far* more worried about the definition of "enemy" which will be employed...
        • by Bastian ( 66383 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:14PM (#13625398)
          If the encryption software in my web browser is a weapon, this satellite is a weapon.
        • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:47PM (#13625622)
          If we put up a device in space that has the sole purpose of being used to disrupt communications, then we open the door for space warfare. Why? Because how is an enemy going to defeat the jamming? Launch a missile into space to take out a satellite or aim a laser at it -- that's how.

          But our GPS guided bombs are a bit of the same thing ... however, local GPS jamming is an alternative. If we did go to war with a more advanced country... taking out GPS satellites might be considered.

          I have a feeling that this system will be used on a US broadcast before it will be used on an "enemy".
        • The only way that I would agree to defining a first aid kit as a weapon is when it is being used as an emergency cudgel.

          Generally I (and, I think most other people, including your average dictionary editor) consider a weapon to be something used directly on or against an opponent to disuade, disrupt, disable, destroy, defeat or kill. Things like like canteens don't normally fit that definition.

          That having been said, I would still define this satellite as a weapon because it is intended to be used di

        • by iq in binary ( 305246 ) <[iq_in_binary] [at] []> on Thursday September 22, 2005 @08:06PM (#13626094) Homepage
          I beg to differ about the definition of a weapon, here. Anything that you take to war, from your rifles and tanks to your canteens, first-aid kits, and radios, is a weapon.

          Okay, dude, you're an idiot. In a combat situation are you to be considered hostile and fired upon for having a canteen? What if you merely have a radio, I mean c'mon; who doesn't like their extremely liberal talk-radio show? A metal tanket of water or a u/vhf 2-way does not a soldier make. And for the record, it's highly frowned upon to fire on those wearing the red cross intentionally; after all they treat YOUR wounded too despite their allignment. NATO alligned countrymen will not shoot you on the battlefield if you have no weapon. Best bet your ass the shooting of men only having canteens, first-aid kits or radios will result in a tribunal and incarceration. Are you so naive to apply the totalitarian view to the definition of weapon? That's like saying the Leatherman I carry on my belt which I use every single day at work is something that would garner gunshot wounds on my part if in my hand in the presence of a police officer. Or the map that a contractor carries that could possibly find its way into the hands of a soldier, is a weapon. Hell binoculars are a weapon now, I can see it now "Drop the optical device or you will be shot!"

          Now stop and ask yourself, what would you do if someone shot at you? You'd shoot back. Threw a knife at you? Hope it misses and either pick it up and throw it back or shoot him. Came running at you flailing a canteen? Get whacked on the head once because of the moment of bewilderment maybe, or laugh, and then whoop his ass! Are you going to kill someone who smacks you with a radio? First Aid Kit? Bullet proof vest? Even more are you going to consider a VIP wearing a bullet proof vest yet not carrying a weapon, to be a threat? I'm thinking you're one of the last people I ever want walking around with a gun, you'd shoot me for having a walkman within 10 feet of you.

          Now, I will agree with you that this sattelite is a weapon. But not because of it's purpose or potential to be used for evil. Even guns are tools, but only in the hands of someone who has intent to kill is it a weapon. It's not function the begets purpose, it is will that begets purpose. The only reason I view this sattelite as a weapon is because it's in the hands of a military organization, severe bias is established because it happens to be the U.S. military. My hands are not weapons, they are precision tools; when curled into fists with the intent of contact is when they become weapons. If a canteen's intent is to be drank from, it's far from a weapon. When a canteen is swung at you it's merely something to laugh at, not kill over.
        • I assure you, give me a detachment of Mobile Infantry from Starship Troopers (the book not the movie), and they WILL win 1000 engagements out of 1000 against any size Indian force you wish. If communication were everything, then why did the Finnish lose the Winter War? Or why was Greece lost to Germany? Or any one of those nice days at the range, for the Colonial British against whichever natives you wish to pick. If weapons technology were subservient to communication, then your idea might be true. Bu
      • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @08:35PM (#13626218)
        "We're not talking about weaponizing space."

        He left out the word "yet".

        I am glad they have the capability to strike al-quada from space though. I am sure this will mean the war on terror will be over any day now.
    • Next up will be the deployment of communications systems which can't be jammed by the satellite, antisatellite satellites and antiantisatellite satelittes, just as we first had observation planes so had to develop planes to shoot them down, then planes to shoot down those planes and so had to develop observation satellites which couldn't be shot down by a plane.

      So what else is new?

      • That's a simple enough issue. To deal with the antiantisatellite satellites, we'll unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the antiantisatellite satellites. To counter that, we'll unleash a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat. Then, the beautiful part: when solar maximum rolls around, the gorillas will fry to death.
      • Did anyone else think of "The Big Hit" with this post?

        Dude1: This muthafucka is a trace busta. This busts their tracer so they can't trace our call.
        Dude2: What if they have a trace buster, too?
        Dude1: That's why we have the trace busta, BUSTA! This muthafucka busts their bust of our trace busta, which busts the bust of their, uh.... uh....
        Dude2: Trace!
        Dude1: Yeah!


        Guy on other end: So you have a trace buster, buster, huh. Well say hello to my trace buster buster BUSTER.
    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:43PM (#13625117) Journal
      The future will be different because we'll learn to live in peaceful harmony

      Okay, just kidding

      I'm still waiting for Kinetic Energy weapons. Ya know... big spikes of metal being dropped into our gravity well in order to obliterate targets.

    • I'm reminded of the openning of 2001:A Space Odyssey. Remember, where the bone turns into a spaceship?
    • If you'll forgive a departure from the normal patented Slashdot Cynicism(tm), the future really will be different. Give it, say, 50 or 100 years.

      Europe was by far the bloodiest continent for hundreds and hundreds of years. What changed? Simple -- Democracy. It's extremely rare that stable democracies war on each other. Eventually, the rest of the world will join civilization and the entire world will be stable constitutional democracies. China, Korea, the Middle East -- Yeah, it seems far away from where

      • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @07:33PM (#13625910)
        I think the idea that we got more civilized has been ruined for me... Europe and America just moved the battle ground. The desperation and poverty in the third world is used to make us cheap tennis shoes. For now, we are all sipping tea and pleasantly competing on who owns more of the exploited.

        What happens when less oil comes out of the ground than the year before? What happens when clean water gets more scarce? What happens when the gulf stream shuts down and Europe has to find new crop land or warmer/wetter weather?

        Are we too civilized to have resource wars? How civilized were we to turn back food and water going to the victims of Katrina just last week in the US of A?

        I have become much more cynical and worried about the future than ever. I have kids of my own now and I worry if they will be spared being drafted into a resource war. I'm sure they'll leave feeling like they are great heroes off to defeat some evil -- they will return with hollow looks in their eyes when they have killed too many of the hungry and desperate.
  • i won't be able to get telemundo anymore?!?!?!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    But assume for one second that the United States were to go the way of the USSR, or at the very least, begin to decline in (financial) power. What happens when they decide that unless they are kept as "king of the world" no one else should be allowed to be either?
  • by spicyjeff ( 6305 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:43PM (#13625113) Homepage
    This isn't meant as a troll, but definitions vary...
    "You can't go to war and win without space."
    Guess they haven't been paying much attention to Iraq.
    • It's correct. We can go to war and kill people and break things ... and if that's how you define "winning" then we will win (even without this satellite).

      If your criteria are other than killing people and breaking things, then this won't be necessary.

      We've gone through how many wars in the past 50 years without this tech and the people we'll be fighting in future wars will STILL be fighting with tech and tactics recognizable 50 years ago.
    • by einhverfr ( 238914 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {srevart.sirhc}> on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:01PM (#13625273) Homepage Journal
      Guess they haven't been paying much attention to Iraq.

      No kidding. I think it is worth rereading Sun Tsu and noting that he had more timeless advoce-- that at least one reading of The Art of War indicates that victory is primarily political and secondarily military. This is the problem in Iraq (though it may turn out to be an unsoluable problem).

      Note that in Iraq in Vietnam (against the US), in Afghanistan (against the USSR), and in many other places, you can see plenty of examples where individuals who felt that they were defending their homeland were able to take on technologically superior forces and eventually wear them down to the point where it was politically problematic to continue. The same may be happening in Iraq today.

      This general's statement only works when everything else is equal. It might work in a situation like Kosovo where we were *helping* those who were defending their homeland. But had we gotten sucked into a land war in, say, Serbia, it would have been far different.

      I don't think the parent was a troll. I think he should be modded up insightful.
      • ah, you're a fan of Sun Tzu.

        All warfare is based on deception. -Sun Tzu

        seems fitting during the Iraq "War".

        it also seems to work for Gulf War 1, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Balkans, Korea, World war 2, World War 1, Spanish-American War, the "civil" war, etc etc.

        not a single war in the history of the world is what it seems, especially since everyone agrees that the victor writes the history. you and your children will die so rich elites can grow richer and so that they can spread the reach of their iron fists.

  • by tcd004 ( 134130 ) * on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:45PM (#13625125) Homepage
    Here's a great interview with an airforce dude [] on why space weapons are the must-have accessory for all modern militaries. Oh, and here's the article [] that he was responeding to, arguing that they're unnecessary...


  • Wasted Resources (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ledgem ( 801924 )
    This just feels like a waste, economically. I can see some benefits for the military, but won't other world powers want to have this ability, too? I don't mean to sound like a peace monger, but the US has to realize that even though we don't see ourselves as a threat (rather, we see ourselves as the ultimate force of good, it seems), once we develop some technology, other nations will want to match or better it. Overall... wasted resources, wasted time, wasted effort that could have been put toward somethin
  • by ObjetDart ( 700355 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:47PM (#13625149)
    every time some European brags about how much better their cell phones are than American cell phones.
  • I thought there was some notion that we would not attempt to militarize
    space. Given the problems we already have with "space junk", orbiting
    materials left over from previous launches ranging in size from rivets and
    nuts to whole satellites, encouraging a "space race" of orbiting weapon
    systems (including weapons against communication) seems crazy and
    deeply disappointing.

    I can only hope that such a space-race doesn't clog the low-Earth-orbit
    regions so legitimate, peaceful endeavors can continue without being
  • by Quirk ( 36086 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:48PM (#13625159) Homepage Journal
    "You can't go to war and win without space."

    General "Buck" Turgidson:" Mr. President, we cannot allow a mineshaft gap!"

    General "Buck" Turgidson: "Gee, I wish we had one of them doomsday machines."

    Memorable Quotes from Dr. Strangelove [] or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

  • Money well spent (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Viper233 ( 132365 )
    I'm sure everyone in New Orleans (...Houston) feels alot better knowing that they'll have enemy communication blocked in space... not to mention all those unemployed people who are too lazy to get a job.... Heard the unemployment rate is the highest it's been in 10 years in the US.
    More importantly will it lower or raise the price of oil???

    Man I'm crumpy this morning...
  • No one has said it yet: "A communication disruption can only mean one thing: invasion."
  • Charlie Don't Surf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:50PM (#13625190) Homepage Journal
    Ghetto terrorists don't have satellites. That's why they win asymmetric battles against musclebound national armies. Because all the Qaeda have to do to get the US to spend $10,000 dealing with an "incident" in Afhanistan is send a guy to a rocky outcropping and plant a yellow flag with a Koran verse.

    1 Qadea asshole: $1.75:day
    1 Prayer flag: $0.13
    1 US counteraction: $10,000
    Victory: priceless

    When the US invests money to increase peace with satellite deploying rivals, we get increased wealth in our global economy (of which the US has the leading share). Or we can invest the money preparing for war with them. Of course we have to invest some in warfare preparedness. And equally certain is the necessity of investing in peace. Or we won't get it. Who wants to be kinda safe in perpetual war?
    • Ghetto terrorists don't have satellites.

      So what makes you think this will be used to target "ghetto terrorists?"
    • Truely great post. Al Queda has stretched our resources far beyond capacity with almost no invesment. Too bad what it has NOTHING to do with what we're talking about here :-P
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:52PM (#13625204) Homepage
    The Central Communications office of the US Air Force was forced to recall and edit the General's original comment, which they felt was "too forward thinking". Originally the General was quoted as saying "You can't go to war and win without spice."

    The General later apologized and blamed it on too much time in the desert, but not before raising his fist and screaming "Long live the Fighters!"

    The Air Force has refused to comment further.

  • Ob. Simpsons reference

    The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.
  • Read up on your history if you don't believe it. No major war has ever been won without a significant space presence.
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday September 22, 2005 @05:58PM (#13625253) Homepage Journal
    it makes microwave popcorn at ~ 100 km
  • by FredThompson ( 183335 ) <> on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:02PM (#13625283)
    This kind of thing has been possible/discussed for a long time. In the early 80s there were rumors the Soviets had wood-encased satellites which were harder to detect. They were to move close to comm satellites then blow themselves up, suicide satellites, if you will. There's no reason to think such things haven't been deployed for at least a generation. What's interesting here is the open public announcement of directed energy satellites for jamming. Most miltary systems have been deployed for quite a while before the public hears anything about them. There have probably been dual-use birds from a number of countries for quite a while. Nothing new here...
  • What's the point of having this neato device, if we're just going to tell the world that we have one?!

  • by rubberbando ( 784342 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:06PM (#13625324)
    I can see it now.

    General: Ok soldier, activate the communications jammer!

    Soldier: Yes, Sir!

    Soldier flips a switch.

    Soldier: Jammer is activated. All communications are jammed, sir.

    Static is heard coming from every communications device.

    General: Ok, soldier. It works. You can turn it off now.

    Soldier presses a few buttons and shakes his head.

    General: I said you can turn it off now soldier.

    Soldier: I'm trying sir. I sent the signal to the satelite but it seems the signal was jammed.

    General: By who?

    Soldier: By the satelite, sir.

  • Attacks from whom? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by payndz ( 589033 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:09PM (#13625360)
    The U.S. military is bracing for future attacks in space

    Uh, from whom, exactly? Al-Qaeda isn't known for its lethal space program as far as I know, and I got the impression that a large part of the US saber-rattling (and actual stabbing and hacking) of the last few years was to get the point across that 'If you mess with us, you'll regret it.'

    So who's going to attack the US from space? Only a moron with nothing to lose who also happens to have spaceflight capabilities, and that's not exactly a large number of countries.

    The Russians? Admittedly they currently pwn spaceflight, but on American dollars - they can barely finance their own operations right now. The Chinese? They don't need to attack militarily, because they're taking the long-term view and happily taking on the outsourcing of everything the US manufactures and buying up the trillion-dollar national debt as a bargaining tool. Iran? India? Pakistan? Don't be fucking ridiculous. Maybe the evil French are going to use an Ariane-5 to launch a Death Star over Washington...

    • Maybe it's a response to this []. I don't think you have to be a space-faring nation to engage in space-warfare. Some other nations have been jamming our satellites, so we're deploying a superior response, I guess.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why, Oceania of course. We've always been at war with Oceania.
    • Yes, attacks from China- perhaps you noticed that trial baloon they sent up a few months back when one of their generals threatened the US with a nuclear response to any US military support for Taiwan? Their "long term view" includes developing the ability to counter US technology (like all of our GPS-guided bombs) so that when they take any action in the pacific, we won't be able to intervene. Why are they building so many new submarines? Why are they developing an independent space program ("reinventing t
      • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @10:56PM (#13626739) Journal
        Their "long term view" includes developing the ability to counter US technology (like all of our GPS-guided bombs) so that when they take any action in the pacific, we won't be able to intervene.
        Considering the U.S. doctrine of preemptive use of nuclear weapons, I'd argue that countering that would be one of the top priorities of any nation with a sane government which also happens to be on the "potential foes" list.
        Why are they building so many new submarines?
        Last I checked, the U.S. fleet still dwarfs that of any other country. If you argue that size of the fleet (and the military in general) is any indication of the country's peacefulness, then U.S. would be the worst offender here.
        Why are they developing an independent space program ("reinventing the wheel"), rather than cooperating with international efforts that are several decades more advanced.
        Why wouldn't they, when their two biggest historical rivals, U.S. and Russia, have theirs?
        If we ever need to face a determined power like China, to protect our own or our allies in the region, it could easily expand into a really messy fight.
        Instead of theorising about a future war in which the last bastion of democracy is being invaded by swarms of evil Chinese, I suggest your country put more attention to diplomacy and other means of solving matters peacefully and avoiding armed conflicts. You might find that this has a much better ROI than simply pouring more and more money in your military (which is already using up more than armies of all other countries combined!).
        So let's hear it for Yankee ingenuity! Keep those jammers flying, and send up a few railguns and x-ray lasers to keep 'em company!
        Of course, as soon as you get the first one into orbit, Russians won't be far behind. And if Chinese won't have their own means of launching their stuff into space by then, they'll just buy it from Russians.

        Life is cruel, you don't get your BFG all for yourself. Live with it.

  • by Easy2RememberNick ( 179395 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:24PM (#13625479)
  • Very Concerning... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kahless2k ( 799262 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @06:28PM (#13625506) Homepage

    A couple days ago, I read about the Pentagon planning a first strike strategy [] using nukes; now I hear about this...

    Man, I need to find a nice hard mountain to build a new home in....

  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Thursday September 22, 2005 @08:04PM (#13626083)
    The U.S. military is bracing for future attacks in space, and the Air Force has deployed an electronic-warfare unit capable of jamming enemy satellites, the general in charge of space defenses says. ... Instead, offensive anti-satellite weapons currently are limited to "countercommunications" operations -- interrupting the signals sent from the ground to satellites that try to disrupt U.S. military or civilian spacecraft, Gen. Lord said. The 76th Space Control Squadron, based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., last year deployed the first offensive countercommunications system that uses mobile teams that can fire electronic jamming gear capable of knocking out enemy satellite communications.

    Didn't anybody read? There ain't no Death Star. Where did "satellite launch from the US" come into things? Oh yeah, it's Slashdot, foolish jumping to conclusions for nerds.

    This "unit" is a group of trained people, most likely on the ground or from the air, who shoot electronic jammy things at ground stations which link to enemy satellites, or enemy ground stations which themselves are jamming US satellites. The US wants to keep its satellites, and since it has more capable and more expensive satellites than competitors it would rather not get in a "you blow up mine, I blow up yours" competition since the endpoint negates US advantages. They want to "I blow up your jammers so my satellites work again."

"Remember, extremism in the nondefense of moderation is not a virtue." -- Peter Neumann, about usenet