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 ().
This is not to say that spy satellites cannot be tracked. Amateurs with the proper equipment can track and observe them (). 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 (), 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 ( ). 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” (), 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.”