Have the use of spy satellites made spy planes redundant?

Have the use of spy satellites made spy planes redundant? by Tony Garcia

Answer by Tony Garcia:

For the most part, yes, orbiting reconnaissance satellites have pretty much made spy planes obsolete, though the U.S. Air Force is still using spy planes for overflights of China and North Korea (Exposed: Are Secret U.S. Spy Planes Flying Over the Pacific?).

This is not to say that spy satellites cannot be tracked. Amateurs with the proper equipment can track and observe them (Tracking Earth's Secret Spy Satellites). One wonders, though, whether the increasing militarization of space may make not just reconnaissance satellites but all satellites likely targets for destruction.

According to an article in Scientific American (War in Space May Be Closer Than Ever), China and Russia are “aggressively seek[ing] to challenge U.S. superiority in space with ambitious military space programs of their own.” The U.S. already has the ability to destroy orbiting satellites (Navy missile hits dying spy satellite, says Pentagon). So how long before the relative sanctity of space becomes the next battleground for technological proxy wars?

Perhaps one of the few deterrents to this type of warfare is the “Kessler effect” (Kessler syndrome – Wikipedia), whereby the “ the density of objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) is high enough that collisions between objects could cause a cascade [in which] each collision generates space debris that increases the likelihood of further collisions… The distribution of debris in orbit could render space activities and the use of satellites in specific orbital ranges unfeasible for many generations.”

Have the use of spy satellites made spy planes redundant?

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