Jeffrey LewisSC-19

Greetings from Geneva!

I have to give a talk on ASAT weapons here at the UNIDIR conference, Celebrating the Space Age: 50 Years of Technology, 40 Years of the Outer Space Treaty.

My talk will center of the role that the spread of hit-to-kill technologies will have on space security. In brief, my argument is that in talking about “ASATs” we’ve conflated likely threats from technologies like Hit to Kill that are feasible and potentially desirable for many missions (missile defense) with more exotic, less useful and potentially infeasible technologies. As a result, we may have made the task of managing the threat from ASATs seem harder than it really is.

All of which is to say, I need to finish that talk. In the meantime, I wanted to do a little housekeeping. Bill Gertz reports that “SE-19” is “the designation for the new space weapon” or, more properly, antisatellite weapon, that China tested in January.

Well, no. Gertz should have checked with the official transcript, rather than relying on the phonetic transcription of remarks by DIA Director Maples who—like many Americans—has a slight drawl (/ess-ee/). I was 14 before I knew that “pin” and “pen” weren’t homophones and that “balm” and “bomb” might be.

The designation, I believe, is SC—as in Charlie—19.

The corrected transcript—and a video of Maples’ comments—is available on Senator Clinton’s website.