China May Be Building
Anti-Satellite Laser Weapon

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Chinese government may be building a powerful laser that could fire a high-powered beam into space and cripple orbiting U.S. satellites, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.
Citing a recently declassified Pentagon report, the newspaper said the Chinese military may be developing the anti-satellite weapon with the help of former Soviet scientists.
Pentagon officials told the newspaper they do not have conclusive proof of the effort. The report provides an "educated prediction" of the Chinese military's future course, the newspaper quoted Pentagon spokesman Capt. Michael Doubleday as saying.
The hundreds of U.S. military satellites orbiting Earth provide U.S. and allied forces with tactical information about adversaries' capabilities and play a key role in targeting, communications, navigation and intelligence gathering.
The newspaper said Chinese officials were impressed by the advantage satellites gave U.S. forces during the 1991 Gulf War and said the Chinese have acknowledged concern that this high-tech edge might be used against them if hostilities broke out between China and its Asian neighbours.
Any anti-satellite laser that the Chinese built would presumably be along the lines of the so-called Mirael laser, the United States' largest which the Army has been testing, the Times said. The Army has spent more the $1 billion to develop the laser, it said.
The U.S. laser burns chemicals and uses mirrors to focus a million-watt energy stream into an 8-foot-wide (2.4-metre-wide) beam that, acting like a blowtorch, can potentially disable satellites hundreds of miles away in seconds, the Times said.
Maj. Mike Birmingham, a spokesman for the U.S. Space Command, told the newspaper that the military is "fully aware that others recognise our reliance on space" and that it must take steps to "guard against turning our dependence into a vulnerability."
He noted that many U.S. satellites have redundant capabilities so an adversary would have to disable many craft to shut down communications and surveillance operations.
Pentagon officials were not immediately available for comment.