Make Kitco Your Homepage

2023 could be the year of a 'Space Pearl Harbor' with vital U.S. Satellites increasingly vulnerable - Brandon Weichert

Kitco News

(Kitco News) - An attack on U.S. satellites, which form the backbone of the nation's communications and commercial infrastructure, is likely to succeed, taking out the United States's ability to defend itself, according to Brandon Weichert, a geopolitical analyst and Editor of the Weichert Report.

Having worked in Congress and consulted for the U.S. military, Weichert's experience led him to conclude that a space-based "Pearl Harbor" is inevitable, and that Russia poses the biggest threat to the U.S. military's WGS satellites.

"Seventy percent of the U.S. military systems, the U.S. Army particularly, rely on the WGS," he observed. "If you remove even a few of those constellations, we don't have enough spares… you're talking about a complete disruption of the U.S. military in about half an hour."

Weichert told Michelle Makori, Lead Anchor and Editor-in-Chief at Kitco News, that a Russian attack on American space assets is probable, despite Russia lacking up-to-date equipment and infrastructure.

"It's the fact that they're willing to strike first," he said. "Once you take out a handful of satellites, you pretty much degrade the whole network."

He added that Russia need only take down "five or six" satellites to "knock out an entire [U.S. satellite] constellation."

Rising geopolitical tensions between Russia and the U.S. can have investment implications, with some analysts calling for gold to reach new highs in 2023 due to this factor, while oil prices could also see new highs.

A Russian threat

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has strained relations between Russia and the United States, with the latter providing arms and funding to the Ukrainian military. For this reason, along with Russia's existing military technology, Weichert ranks Russia as being the United States's primary threat in space.

"[Russia] has one of the largest space programs, the second-largest in the world," he said. "Technically, in space, they've developed along with the Chinese what is known as counter-space capabilities… The Russians want to disconnect the NATO alliance from Ukraine in the war, so one of the ways they might do that would be to attack [U.S.] satellites."

Weichert claimed that as the "situation in Ukraine deteriorates," and Putin's political support grows weaker in Russia, "He is likely to look at more radical military options such as the Space Pearl Harbor scenario," which would force NATO to the negotiating table.

He explained that Russia, along with China, have developed "co-orbital satellites," which can "latch onto American systems in geosynchronous orbit, and physically push them from their orbits and send them tumbling back to Earth."

"It would take a long period of time before our people on the ground who control these satellites realize we were attacked," he said. "That timeframe is a huge window of opportunity for the Russians or the Chinese to exploit with their conventional forces on Earth."

Weichert confirmed that in case of such an attack, the United States would be unable to replace their satellites in time.

"The Russians have a lot of different capabilities in the anti-satellite domain, not just being able to physically push our systems out of orbit, but could also blind them with lasers, or use conventional anti-satellite weapons," he said. "They could use a bevy of other capabilities that would basically outnumber the ability for us to replace the WGS or a similar satellite constellation."

"If those satellites go down, then suddenly the military is rendered deaf, dumb, and blind and totally useless," Weichert stated.

Why 2023 is the window of opportunity for an attack?

The WGS satellite constellation, which forms the backbone of the U.S. military's communications network, is receiving two additional satellites, thanks to Congressional funding approval in 2018. However, these satellites are not going to be deployed until 2024, giving Russia or China an opportunity to attack before the WGS system is strengthened with the new satellites.

If the WGS were taken down, then the entire U.S. military's communications network would be in peril.

"It's not just surveillance systems or communications systems, but also possibly those very important nuclear command and communications satellites in high-earth orbit," said Weichert. "If you remove those, then you've seriously degraded the Western ability to threaten Russia with a nuclear reprisal should they go nuclear."

After Russia, Weichert said that China constitutes a serious threat to U.S. space assets.

"Beginning in 2010, Russia and China developed their own space force and created the doctrines for it and began resourcing it," he said. "The Russians and Chinese develop these weapons partly to psyche the Americans out."

Weichert added, "we are seeing an escalation [between Russia, China, and the U.S.], and 2023 could very well be the apotheosis of that escalation."

Space Force

During his presidency, Donald Trump established the U.S. Space Force as a branch of the Armed Forces, to protect American space assets.

However, Weichert said that the Biden administration has not prioritized Space Force.

"In April of 2021, Jen Psaki, who was then White House press secretary for Biden, was on the air and she was openly mocking Space Force," he said. "The problem is that because it was a Trump initiative, there are a lot of bureaucrats in DC who want to marginalize it… there are not enough resources being given to Space Force."

To find out what Weichert thinks must be done to reach a peace deal in Ukraine, watch the video above

Follow Michelle Makori on Twitter: @MichelleMakori

Follow Kitco News on Twitter: @KitcoNewsNOW

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.