China conducts test launch of anti-satellite missile

U.S. officials has confirmed that China has conducted test launch of a new anti-satellite missile named Dong Neng-3, the Washington Free Beacon reports.

This partially confirms our earlier report on a suspected launch of anti-ballistic (but anti-satellite) missiles by China based on the images and videos reportedly captured in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China and was shared in the social media. The trajectory of the missile was noted to be similar to that of anti-ballistic missiles like THAAD fielded by United States.

According to Free Beacon report, the flight test of the direct ascent missile was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies on July 23 from China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia, in northwestern China, said U.S. defense officials familiar with reports of the launch.

The officials said the launch was not successful and the DN-3 appeared to malfunction in the upper atmosphere after the launch at night.

The launch took place after Chinese authorities posted a notice to airlines to avoid flying near the flight path of the missile. The missile’s flight was captured in photographs and video by several Chinese internet users near the Jiuquan facility.

Despite the failure, China’s space warfare program is said to be advancing rapidly as an asymmetric warfare weapon that will allow a less capable Chinese military to defeat the U.S. military in a future conflict. The current test highlights the growing threat of Beijing’s space warfare capabilities

China destroyed a weather satellite in space in 2007,  causing tens of thousands of pieces of orbiting debris and sparking international condemnation. Since 2007, China’s ASAT missile tests have been against notional targets and in several cases were disguised as anti-missile interceptor tests, according to U.S. officials.

China tested a DN-2 in 2013 that traveled 18,600 miles in space where U.S. intelligence satellites are located. The DN-3 was tested in October 2015, and again in December 2016. That DN-3 test was masked as an anti-missile interceptor test.

The U.S. military does not have a deployed anti-satellite missile. However, in 2008 the military used a modified SM-3 anti-missile interceptor to shoot down a falling intelligence satellite as it reentered the atmosphere. The operation, code-named Burnt Frost, showed that the Pentagon could rapidly retool for anti-satellite warfare. The operation came a year after China’s 2007 anti-satellite test.

The U.S. Air Force (USAF) also developed the ASM-135 during the 1980s to be launched from an F-15 fighter jet. U.S. Congress banned anti-satellite missile tests against targets in space in 1985.

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