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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 13th May 2016 > PEARL HARBOR IN OUTER SPACE


Forget ISIS—a Chinese or Russian attack on U.S. satellites could win a war before anyone fires a shot

IN THEIR TECHNO-THRILLERGhost Fleet, authors Peter Singer and August Cole describe a cataclysmic world war that begins with a Chinese sneak attack against the U.S. in space. First, soldiers at China’s Cyber Command Headquarters in Shanghai hack into the Pentagon’s network of GPS satellites and scramble their signals. The cyberattack sows chaos among U.S. forces, which can no longer navigate accurately, track targets or hit them with precision munitions.

Then, from a space station orbiting 200 miles above Earth, Chinese astronauts train a laser gun on three dozen U.S. satellites the military relies upon for virtually all of its communications and critical surveillance. By the time the Chinese are done, America’s technological edge on this new, 21st-century battlefield has been reduced to the predigital levels of World War II.

Such scenarios may read like science fiction, but the threat of what military experts call a “space Pearl Harbor”—a sneak attack on U.S. satellites that cripples American forces before a shot has been fired—has Pentagon planners seriously worried. Space is the ultimate high ground for today’s warriors, and no military has dominated those strategic heights as successfully as America’s. But its constellations of GPS, surveillance and communications satellites are largely undefended, a vulnerability that hasn’t escaped notice in China and Russia. The result: a new three-way space race—the first since the end of the Cold War, and one that now includes the development of weapons to knock out the other side’s space assets.

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Don't Blame Trump: As Trump continues to sweep up millions of votes, Republican Party leaders are scrambling to find a way to ignore them. Because many candidates were in the race when it started, it is possible Trump won’t have enough delegates to secure the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican Convention. No doubt, if his last name was Bush or Rubio or Romney, this would be inconsequential—rather than cooking up ways for someone else to get the nod, party leaders would sweet-talk or arm-twist unpledged delegates to coalesce around the front-runner. But Republican politicians and party bosses fear that a Trump nomination could lead to the biggest electoral washout in history and so are scheming to overrule the riffraff.