Geoff FordenTold You So…

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Slide from a talk I gave on Capital Hill (sponsored by the AAAS) in March 2008.

Media reports today indicate that China has tested “ground-based midcourse missile interception technology.” Details necessary for evaluating exactly what system has been tested have not emerged yet. Nevertheless, it bolsters a prediction I made soon after the 2007 ASAT test: that China would continue testing its hit-to-kill technology in the form of a missile defense system. After all, there is no functional difference between an ASAT and a missile defense system; the closing speed is the only important parameter for classifying any exoatmospheric interceptor.


  1. Lurking Observer (History)

    If you are correct and this is a continuation of anti-satellite technology development, doesn’t this suggest that the initial test was NEITHER the result of a rogue PLA NOR of engineers who were simply doing what came naturally, but is, instead, part of a larger, sustained effort?

  2. Jing

    I love it when Chinese state media plays coy.

    On January 11, 2010, China conducted a test on ground-based midcourse missile interception technology within its territory. The test has achieved the expected objective. The test is defensive in nature and is not targeted at any country.

    That is the entire article.

  3. Jan

    Hmm, any predictions how the US hawks will react to this? Maybe one of this:

    1) Ignore it ?
    2) Applaud them and maybe offer BMD cooperation (cough)?
    3) Condemn the Chinese ASAT technology, and request Obama to “catch up” ?

  4. Geoff Forden (History)

    Lurking Observer—yes, of course. I never said otherwise. I think most people who analyzed the politics of the test said that China just never considered the resulting space debris (or perhaps just never considered the international reaction to the space debris) but I should let them speak for themselves.

    Jan–its hard enough to predict China’s actions. I think I will stay away from predicting Washington’s.

  5. RAJ47

    Vivid display of technological advancement in TT&C. Is arms sale to Taiwan in geopardy? China’s timings are always perfect. The Indian Defence Secretary is on visit to Beijing too.

  6. 3.1415 (History)

    It would not be so comical if one does not recall that the former National Security Advisor said that the senior leadership in China may not be aware of the first test three years ago to the date. There is no Chinese four character idiom for “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing”. The Party controls the gun, whose barrel produces power, as it was said once upon a time. It seems clear and fair that China is determined to achieve whatever its superpower mentor has achieved, if not more. That does not bode well for our sole spaceship. Maybe it is time to have a responsible adult conversation rather than a xxxx-measuring contest?

  7. Ryan Crierie (History)

    They actually did test an ABM system of their own in the 1970s, it never went into full production; so they didn’t start from scratch.

    It does illustrate graphically, what the hullaboo about ABM is REALLY about.

    It’s about whether the United States will have defenses or not. Because everyone else will, irregardless of what we decide.

  8. Matt Hoey (History)

    “We cannot allow an ASAT gap!” Scream the Hawks. “We must protect our critical space assets, without an ability to protect these assets from attack (remember this line from the Air Force TV spot) your cell phone calls, television, GPS and even your banking transactions could be taken out with a single missile.” This will be sold by war planners (again), who in turn will freak out some politicians (again), who will then lobby the president, but with no success.

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