PRC Anti-Satellite Missile Provocation? Why Now? Bob Zimmerman,

Dec 10, 2016, 06:35 AM

12-09-2016 (Photo: Air-launched anti-satellite missiles (ASAT) were carried under F-15 aircraft. In 1985 a test launch successfully resulted in the destruction of an obsolete satellite. The missile was never put into production or made operational.) Twitter: @BatchelorShow

PRC Anti-Satellite Missile Provocation? Why Now? Bob Zimmerman,

China preparing for anti-satellite test? December 9, 2016 at 1:42 pm Robert Zimmerman According to Pentagon officials China is preparing for a flight test of a new anti-satellite rocket. Test preparations for the Dong Neng-3 anti-satellite missile were detected at a military facility in central China, according to Pentagon officials familiar with reports of the impending test. Intelligence agencies were alerted to the impending test by China’s announcement of air closure zones covering the expected flight path of the DN-3.

The flight test could come as early as Thursday, the officials said. No other details of the missile test were available. A Pentagon spokesman and a State Department official both said, “We do not comment on intelligence matters.” One additional detail: The DN-3 rocket appears to be based on the Chinese commercial rocket Kuiazhou, which a Chinese launch company is pitching to the international market as a vehicle for putting smallsats into orbit.

The anti-satellite missiles are part of what the Pentagon calls “counterspace” forces, part of China’s large-scale military buildup. “The PLA is acquiring a range of technologies to improve China’s counterspace capabilities,” the Pentagon’s latest report on the Chinese military said. “In addition to the development of directed energy weapons and satellite jammers, China is also developing anti-satellite capabilities and has probably made progress on the anti-satellite missile system it tested in July 2014.” In addition to missiles and lasers, China also is working on small maneuvering satellites that can grab and destroy orbiting satellites. Richard Fisher, a China military affairs specialist, said the DN-3 appears to be based on the Kuaizhou-1 (KZ-1) mobile space launch vehicle. “It’s about the same size as the DF-31 solid fuel mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM),” he said. Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the DN-3 could be capable of hitting satellites more than 18,640 miles away in space—more than enough to reach large U.S. surveillance satellites that occupy orbit 186 to 620 miles from earth. “In late 2016 or by mid 2017 the PLA may test a larger solid fuel mobile space launch vehicle called the KZ-11, with a 2-meter diameter motor similar in size to the new large and multiple warhead armed DF-41 ICBM,” Fisher said.