New Concerns Over Threats from Space Revealed in Latest U.S. Classified Document Leak

Artist’s concept of China’s Tiangong Space Station (CC 4.0).

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief… in recent days, leaked classified documents and testimony from top officials conveyed renewed concerns by U.S. leadership about the space activities of foreign adversaries. In our analysis, we’ll be looking at 1) what the latest top-secret information leaks convey about China and Russia’s space programs, 2) how space stations, communications jamming, and other technologies fit into the current U.S. assessments, and 3) why threats from space aren’t the only things that are currently worrying U.S. officials.

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Quote of the Week

“Now is not the time to allow for any measure of complacency… We are now at the precipice of a new era in space.”

– Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations

Latest Stories: A few of the stories we’re covering this week at The Debrief include a quick tutorial on how to land a rocket on another planet, moon, or even a comet without completely destroying the landing site or damaging the craft. Elsehere, NASA says this unusual green light seen flashing through the sky over Japan came from space, but it was no meteor, and reporter Tim McMillan also gives us the most comprehensive breakdown yet of the recent Senate hearing on UAP. You can find links to all our recent stories at the end of this week’s newsletter.

Podcasts: This week in podcasts from The Debrief, MJ Banias and Stephanie Gerk talk about UFOs, the government, and decide to take minimum wage jobs at the Pentagon’s AARO UFO office on the latest installment of The Debrief Weekly ReportMeanwhile, this week on The Micah Hanks Program, we are joined by Garry Nolan, a Stanford University professor of pathology who discusses his groundbreaking research into anomalous health incidents and their possible relationship to UAP, as well as the analysis of materials purportedly recovered from anomalous aerial vehicles. You can subscribe to all of The Debrief’s podcasts, including audio editions of Rebelliously Curious, by heading over to our Podcasts Page. 

Video News: This Friday, The Debrief will be launching “Ask Dr. Chance,” a brand new 10-part interactive series featuring Dr. Chance Glenn, where he answers your questions about science, space travel and much more. Be sure to check out the first episode tomorrow at noon Eastern. Also, this week on Rebelliously Curious, Chrissy Newton sat down with CFO, professor, Bitcoin enthusiast, and psychedelics advocate Paul Hynek, the son of former scientific advisor to the U.S. Air Force’s UFO investigations J. Allen Hynek. You can also watch past episodes and other great content from The Debrief on our official YouTube Channel.

With all of that behind us, we now shift our attention over to the recent concerns aired by U.S. officials in classified documents and Congressional testimony about foreign adversaries and the emerging threats that their capabilities could pose.

Threats From Space: Documents Highlight Efforts of U.S. Foreign Adversaries

Renewed concerns over potential threats that could arise from the space operations of U.S. adversaries have come to light in recent days following the latest in an ongoing series of U.S. classified document leaks.

The documents, part of a trove leaked onto a Discord server by a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard member, were first reported by The Washington Post yesterday and detail concerns about the current efforts of adversarial nations—China in particular—and their ambitions in space in the coming years.

threats from space
Still image from a recent simulation outlining a potential attack on Taiwan from China’s Air Force and Naval forces illustrates the potential for threats from space and other domains outlined in recent U.S. classified documents (Credit: People’s Liberation Army Air Force).

According to the top-secret documents, U.S. officials expressed concerns that countries like China are developing capabilities that could potentially put spaceborne operations and other orbital assets of the U.S. and its allies at risk.

Here is what we currently know about the information contained within the document trove, as well as what other officials in recent days have said about foreign threat potentials arising from other domains where conflict may arise.

Space Stations, Communications Jamming, and Threats from Space

According to the documents reviewed by the Post, the use of satellite technologies capable of jamming the communications systems of its enemies had been among the many concerns raised in the recently leaked documents.

Worries that China may attempt to use such technologies in the event of a conflict with Taiwan were emphasized, outlining capabilities that would enable China to disable or destroy ballistic missile early warning satellites.

China’s construction of its own space station was also discussed in the documents. Back in April 2021, China launched the space station’s first module, Tianhe-1, with projections that the remainder would be completed in 2022. In addition to its construction of an independent orbital space platform, the U.S. expressed concerns about China’s aims to capture and exploit territory on the lunar surface rich in native resources where it may construct lunar bases.

The question of whether a territorial dispute with China may occur on the moon is nothing new. Last July, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told the German newspaper Bild that “We must be very concerned that China is landing on the Moon and saying: ‘It’s ours now and you stay out.’” China subsequently played down Nelson’s concerns, denouncing them as lies.

China’s space program isn’t the only one that concerns U.S. officials, however. The documents also convey the concerns U.S. officials have about Russia’s space activities, although compared with China’s ambitious space program, Russia’s “very likely will diminish during the next decade,” one of the documents said, resulting from a variety of factors that include U.S. sanctions against the country since its invasion of Ukraine.

However, that isn’t to say that Russia hasn’t been ramping up its efforts in other areas, which could point to additional long-term concerns for U.S. officials.

Undersea Operations by U.S. Foreign Adversaries Highest in Years, Top General Says

On Wednesday, April 26, 2023, U.S. Army Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, Commander of the U.S. European Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the current U.S. military posture and national security challenges in Europe. During the session, Cavoli said that Russia’s submarine presence in the Atlantic has increased to levels not seen in recent years.

“The Russians have been more active than we’ve seen them in years,” Cavoli said, noting the country’s “patrols into the Atlantic and throughout the Atlantic are at a high level most of the time, at a higher level than we’ve seen in years.”

Russian submarine
Kilo-Class Russian Submarine seen in 2018 (Credit:

Cavoli added that the country’s submarine activity appeared to have risen despite Russia’s ongoing involvement in Ukraine. Last week, a series of drills conducted by the Kremlin’s Pacific Fleet was believed to signal the increased cooperation between Russia and its partnership with China’s military.

Mirroring concerns expressed by Cavoli, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander, who appeared alongside Cavoli in yesterday’s hearing, also warned about underestimating Russia’s military capabilities, whether at sea or in other domains.

Wallander, although noting Russia’s ground forces have been significantly reduced during the Ukraine conflict, added that the country “still retains strategic capabilities” that include its submarine forces, what remains the world’s largest nuclear force, and its cyber and other capabilities.

“We should not make the mistake of underestimating Russia’s military capabilities,” Wallander said during yesterday’s hearing.

“The stakes of getting it wrong are too high,” she added.

That concludes this week’s installment of The Intelligence Brief. You can read past editions of The Intelligence Brief at our website, or if you found this installment online, don’t forget to subscribe and get future email editions from us here. Also, if you have a tip or other information you’d like to send along directly to me, you can email me at micah [@] thedebrief [dot] org, or Tweet at me @MicahHanks.

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