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Australia and US joining space, cyber capabilities to monitor China

US accelerating defense integration with ‘extremely high-end partner’

Pine Gap facility in Australia. (Twitter, Gerg photo)

Pine Gap facility in Australia. (Twitter, Gerg photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Australia and the U.S. are deepening coordination between their military forces in an effort to build an “integrated deterrence” in the domains of space and cyber warfare as the two countries grow increasingly concerned about Chinese belligerence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The U.S. and Australia are boosting security cooperation in space and the cyber domains as the Indo-Pacific allies strengthen efforts to counter China, which is investing heavily in space and weapons such as hypersonic missiles.

Three high-ranking U.S. officers expressed strong confidence about the deepening partnership on Monday (March 28) ahead of meetings with their Australian counterparts deep in Australia’s desert interior, per a Financial Times report. They will convene at Pine Gap, a top-secret joint U.S.-Australia intel facility that operates as a base for American satellite recon missions.

“We’ve come a long way in a short time to be able to integrate the space and cyber domains,” Admiral John “Lung” Aquilino, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Financial Times, describing Australia as an “extremely high-end partner.”

Aquilino said tracking and preventing hypersonic missiles is key to getting a better read on potential battlespace.

General James Dickinson, head of U.S. Space Command, said Australia is essential to overcoming the “tyranny of distance” and helping the U.S. monitor China’s moves in space. “It’s really location, location, location. This is a perfect location for a lot of the things we need to do,” Dickinson said.

The U.S. military plans to increase digital convergence with Australia to secure communications between space commanders in both countries. The two sides are also augmenting joint cyber training exercises.

The U.S. and its allies are increasingly concerned about China’s military capabilities in space.

Earlier this month, Chinese researchers announced they had created an artificial intelligence system that autonomously recognizes shock waves in wind tunnel tests used to design hypersonic missiles. This follows news the country has developed a microwave machine that emits a pulse so strong it could potentially jam or destroy satellites.

These developments come after revelations China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space in August last year, which some in Washington likened to a “new Sputnik moment.”

The U.S. has recently stepped up efforts to install hypersonic missiles on its own warships and has contracted Raytheon Technologies to assist in building and testing the Glide Phase Interceptor, the first interceptor specifically designed to defeat hypersonic threats. More resources are being spent on technology to track China’s hypersonics too.

Policy experts like Thomas Karako, a senior fellow at Washington D.C.-based think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in November the U.S. needs to deploy space-based sensors to counter the Chinese military’s new missiles.

The next month, the U.S. Space Force awarded Arizona-based GEOST a contract worth US$32 million (NT$883.84 million) for its prototype space-based sensors in an effort to get more eyes "above the skies.”