Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Report: China, Russia could see X-37B as threat

By Ben Iannotta

An international think tank has published a report questioning the military usefulness of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B military space plane and suggesting that the ongoing orbital experiment could inspire other space-faring nations to develop countermeasures.
The report, “X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Fact Sheet,” was produced by the Secure World Foundation, a private group of researchers advocating the peaceful use of outer space.

The report does not doubt the U.S. Air Force’s contention that it is testing the X-37B to pave the way for a space shuttle-like military craft that would launch and retrieve unarmed satellites. But the report suggests that the experiment, which the Air Force began last month by launching the craft on an Atlas 5 rocket, could have unintended consequences because there is so much secrecy surrounding it.

“This is a technology which very well could be used offensively, and other countries like Russia and China could see that as a threat,” said Brian Weeden, the retired Air Force captain who wrote the paper for the foundation.

An Air Force spokeswoman questioned the foundation’s decision to call the paper a “fact sheet,” a term often used on government web sites. “We have not responded to this article,” said Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Angie Blair. “We do want the public to understand it is not an official fact sheet,” she added.

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