With resolution reaching 10 meters next year, the Beidou constellation of orbiters could provide guidance coordinates for a number of military devices, from precision-guided munitions to unmanned vehicles
Defense specialists are warning that China’s Beidou (北斗) satellite-based navigation system, which began providing services on Tuesday, could pose a long-term threat to Taiwan’s security and they are calling for countermeasures.
Xinhua news agency announced on Tuesday that the Beidou (“Compass”) Navigation Satellite System had begun providing initial positioning, navigation and timing services for China and the surrounding areas. Hoping to diminish its reliance on the US’ global positioning systems (GPS), China began work on the Beidou system in 2000.
Ten satellites which form the Beidou “constellation” have been launched since 2007, with six more launches scheduled for next year to provide extended coverage for the Asia-Pacific region. By 2020, the Beidou constellation will comprise 35 satellites.
At present, only the US and Russia, with its Glonass constellation of 24 satellites, have fully operational satellite-based navigation services, with the EU’s Galileo expected to enter full service in 2013. According to an October 2008 article by Jane’s Defence Weekly, China’s involvement in the Galileo project might have benefited the development of the Beidou constellation, especially dual-use technology used by the EU consortium.
Although China claims Beidou will provide commercial services, such as mapping, fishery, transport, meteorology and telecommunications, the system could also be of great assistance to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.