Jeffrey LewisCounter Satellite Communications System Deployed

Lockheed Martin has delivered the first Counter Satellite Communications System (or just Counter Communications System) to 76th Space Control Squadron in Colorado.

The announcement was made by U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Larry James in an interview at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Space 2004 conference.

The press coverage failed to actually give the name or any details of the program.

One of two offensive counterspace systems being developed by the Air Force to disrupt adversary space systems with temporary and reversible effects, CSCS is a mobile, ground based system. The program is about two quarters behind schedule (the first delivery was scheduled for 1Q 2004); two more systems were slated for delivery in 1Q 2005. The other program, the Counter Surveillance Reconnaissance System (CSRS … as in “scissors”), was canceled this year.

The announcement is another step by Air Force officials toward highlighting (or exaggerating) the threat to space assets. This blog previously noted Air Force officials exaggerating the import of Iraqi efforts to jam precision guided munitions using GPS signals.

This argument is set out by Noah Shachtman in a recent article in Wired. Shachtman notes Air Force counterspace efforts in light of the release of an Air Force counterspace doctrine document:

Nevertheless, the Air Force would like to pursue weapons that could be used to destroy a satellite — if Congress will let it. Next year/’s proposed budget for Counterspace Systems was slashed by nearly two-thirds, to $28.4 million, according to a report from University of Maryland researcher Jeffrey Lewis.

Now, it is true that my report said the Counterspace Systems budget was slashed. I don’t think, though, that the division between thos who want to blast things out of the sky (“acquire the full range of counterspace capabilities” in the parlance of the Pentagon)., on one hand, and more cautious folks, on the other, breaks down so neatly between the Air Force and Congress. In the case of the KE ASAT, the Army didn’t want the program but a couple of members of Congree kept it alive.

As for CSRS, Congress killed but claimed it was acting on an Air Force recommnedation. The Administration blamed Congress and the Air Force refused comment.

So many of the ASAT technologies have drawbacks. My guess is that restraint prevails, so far, because the Air Force remains restrained because hasn/’t found a combination of doctrine and technology that adds up to a really useful system.

Note: Readers of the earlier version of this post might have the impression that Shactman misqoted me. That impression has more to do with my decision to blog on half a cup on coffee than anything else. The report is quoted correctly.