The People’s Republic of China has already said it intended to expand its presence in Antarctica to
add new ground stations in Antarctica to support its satellite activity and data collection as concerns mount over Beijing’s surveillance programs and the rising security threats directed at the US.
Rick Fisher, Senior Fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center and Global Taiwan Institute Advisory Board member has an additional concern.
In 2021, state media revealed that China had put a LIDAR—a laser radar—into the Zhongshan station to conduct “atmospheric research.’ Any kind of laser raises the possibility that the LIDAR could be upgraded to be a far more powerful laser.
That’s true enough, and it’s a fairly simple upgrade and one about which to be concerned. However, for many of our satellites and those of our friends and allies, it would be a low angle attack through much of our atmosphere to get at very many of our satellites.
I have a larger concern, one also touched on by Fisher.
If you’re going to be attacking the United States in that manner—traversing Antarctica—it is extremely useful to have the ability to update a FOBS [Fractional Orbit Bombardment System] bus[.]
The PRC has already tested an around-the-world hypersonic nuclear missile attack profile; that test missile missed its target after its circumnavigation by some 25 miles. The route wouldn’t need to be all that close to over-the-south-pole to pick up a precise course update from the PRC’s Antarctica ground station. And at this point in our deteriorating defense capability, such a system gone operational would give the PRC a first-strike capability.