Aliens arrive today (2020) and are not completely peaceful. The aliens destroy all Earth satellites instantly.

So that means a lot of the more advanced military technology like guided missiles and drones are off, right? I'm only interested in what Earth military systems are disabled and disrupted by this attack. I'm sure if you can still work a weapon with 80% efficiency it's better than not having it. I'm just focusing on knowing what will fail. so please please please lets not get off topic and insist that humans should surrender because FTL travel=insta win or that they can weaponize asteroids or the other stuff.

What military technologies will be mostly disabled by the loss of satellites and to what degree?

This is mostly focused on the biggest militaries out there for obvious reasons, like the USA, Russia, China, Germany, Japan, Britain, and France. I don't mean to disrespect the smaller countries or anything, actually they will play a part but this isn't the place. I just want to focus on the biggest countries with the most advanced military.

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    $\begingroup$ You don't need to justify your question with so many words. Just write, "Suddenly all artificial satellites around Earth disappear. Which military technology is affected and by what degree?" $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Jul 31 '20 at 22:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Dragongeek I hope so. But it already gathered a close vote despite having a total of 9 views. Obviously I'm doing something wrong here but I just want to be clear so I tried to do so in the question. Making it clear I'm merely looking for a particular answer to a particular question and so to get the best results. Though with this rate once it hit 50 view it would be closed. Not sure what am I doing wrong. Cool name anyway. $\endgroup$ – Seallussus Jul 31 '20 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Guided missiles don't use satellite-based navigation systems, for obvious reasons. Unmanned aerial vehicles are already assumed to be useless against an opponent with decent military capabilities, so their loss would only impact operations against those weak opponents against whom the Big Powers train their armies. The most scary scenario is a ballistic missile submarine on patrol somewhere in the middle of the ocean, which would find itself suddenly without the possibility to report back and be assured that the mother country still exists. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 1 '20 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Actually, there was a system for transmitting to nuclear submarines that was completely independent of satellites, as it was assumed all satellites could be destroyed in the opening round of any nuclear war. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Sanguine I have no doubt there is something similar still in operation, but completely classified. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 1 '20 at 6:19
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus: Very Long Wave Radio is in use; unfortunately it is unidirectional, and it has abysmal bandwidth -- on the order of one character per minute. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 1 '20 at 10:42

GPS and similar systems (Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou, for example) are the first thing that comes to mind. Modern militaries rely heavily on extremely accurate positional systems for navigation, coordination, and intelligence gathering. The loss of GPS would be crippling for aircraft and ships, and extremely inconvenient for land forces. Drones and missiles may or may not be effected, since some use satellite navigation and communication and some do not.

How could they adapt? Land forces would be able to adapt most quickly, given that static maps, roads, rails, and landmarks are still there. The US Navy and Airforce, I'm told, still teach traditional navigation techniques so after some brushing up they could probably be operational again soon. I'd assume every major power does also, or would quickly learn.

General communications would be lost too. Terrestrial communications are dominant across domestic territory, ranging from optical fiber to point-to-point microwave transceivers. Across borders, in the air, and in the ocean, however, satellite is very important for maintaining communications. The ability for military forces to coordinate in real time would be devastated.

How could they adapt? During WWII, the allies maintained a network of radio repeater stations. Artillery units would send target information and wind conditions out over radio, the message would be repeated from station to station all the way back to England or the USA, mechanical computers would calculate the firing angles, and those angles would be sent back along the network. The turn-around time was only a few minutes.

Today, there's several independent networks of terrestrial radio repeaters run by various private and government organizations. These networks are usually used during disaster relief operations, but they could be co-opted for warfare easily enough. Modern consumer radio transceiver technology allows a hobbyist to reach clear across the Atlantic on a good day.

Nuclear early-warning systems would be effectively neutered. Due to the uncertain circumstances they were designed for, intercontinental nuclear missiles don't rely on outside systems for anything at all. They navigate by dead reckoning. ICBM detection systems, on the other hand, are bolstered by satellite monitoring to detect launches ASAP and ready defenses. There are other detection systems, but satellites give the earliest warning. With the loss of those satellites, everyone would have much less time defend against a nuclear ICBM and it'd be an ideal opportunity for one nation to strike another, or even these aliens launching one of these missiles in order to sow discord among the world powers and prevent them from cooperating.

How could they adapt? Not many options here. Observer posts all over the world near (known) launch sites, equipped with long-range radios would be the only option I can think of and it's a real stretch. This could well be the worst consequence of losing satellites.

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    $\begingroup$ Most of the transoceanic communication is done via underwater cables, loss of satellites won't really affect it. Likewise, communication problems across country borders would arise only for the countries that would decide to start a war (which would not very smart, as the attackers would be affected more). I know very little about air communications, but most airports I've visited have their land-based antennae for direct communication to nearby planes, without any need for satellites. To be fair, those were quite outdated, maybe modern airports rely on satellites more, no clue. $\endgroup$ – Alice Aug 1 '20 at 7:39
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    $\begingroup$ It would be more frightening if they took over the satellites. Feeding unreliable intel, moving military into traps and taking over autonomous machines like drones and rockets. They might not be nuclear rockets, but they can be devastating anyway. Before the military finds out, you might have already done a lot of damage and if it's still online some persons might be reluctant to not trust the system. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Aug 1 '20 at 11:07
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    $\begingroup$ There would be initial panic, but assuming those in control of 'the button' confirmed via observation (all the major powers track their competitors satellites) that everyone was in fact losing their satellites 24/7 phone links would soon be established as a global effort was made to try to figure out what the hell had really happened. If your aliens wanted to be real bastards what they would do is take out one sides satellites but not the others. A good time would then be had by all - not. $\endgroup$ – Mon Aug 1 '20 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget INS, which has been around a while and isn't going away (e.g. in aircraft and munitions). $\endgroup$ – VisualMelon Aug 1 '20 at 13:38
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    $\begingroup$ Note that the loss of GPS wouldn't be as crippling as it sounds -- PGM capability doesn't require GPS (cruise missiles can use a platform-bootstrapped INS + TERCOM, everything else can use local radar, IR, or laser guidance), nor do air ops (you'd fallback to TACAN + INS mostly, with PAR or portable ILS gear for precision approach) $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Aug 2 '20 at 1:10

Aliens take out our satellites

Soviets take out our satellites

The military is already expecting a sophisticated adversary to do that pretty much as their opening gambit. Most likely in the year or three before a conflict, the adversary will “get busy” and

  • Launch a bunch of hunter-killer satellites, able to thrust over to the enemy satellite, grapple and de-orbit (if they're nice).
  • Or, they will have tuned up their ASAT capability; AEGIS destroyers can already do this, and the Chinese have shot one down also.
  • Or if they're not nice, destroy everything at a particular orbit altitude, by causing Kessler Syndrome. This is the least sophisticated option; no precision tracking/seeking is needed; nothing but a box of nails and a hand grenade. Any country capable of orbiting something can do that.
  • Jamming satellites. Different technologies in space mean different frequencies they are working on. These can be clouded by noise on that frequency, while not interfering with your own.
  • Hacking satellites can be even more productive. The ability to take over the enemies information and possibly launch systems can change the course of military material, personnel and rockets. In addition, they might launch or give orders to launch them at valid targets, only to take them over en route.
  • A midsize military such as Japan, Australia or India does not own their GPS or other satellite services. They rely on other countries' satellites, and they expect their access to be turned off when things get hot. (The US would surely continue to support Japan, but may have to turn off public GPS to deny it to enemies).

So the military is equipped and drills all the time to function in a no-satellite world. Because it's pretty much expected that'll happen. They're ready for aliens to do it, because they’re ready for North Korea to do it.

  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, it's not hugely likely that a space capable nation would go for the Kessler Syndrome approach, as it would cause them as many issues as it causes their enemies. $\endgroup$ – Austin Hemmelgarn Aug 1 '20 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @AustinHemmelgarn That's only true if the regime expects to survive the war. If the nature of the war is such that the regime will be utterly deposed, tried or executed, then they really will not care. I can see that being so for North Korea, Iran, China (they lose = end of communism). $\endgroup$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '20 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ This doesn’t really take into account the institutional factors that erode this sort of preparedness over time. Most militaries are geared towards counterinsurgencies and cyber operations aimed towards small-scale troubledoers, and that is where all the funding and expertise goes. The US military in particular has been suffering an enormous brain drain in the aerospace and computational science fields for decades now. As a professional in computer engineering, it is my understanding that the US military recruits from the bottom of the barrel in my field, and the associated loss of prestige- $\endgroup$ – taylor swift Aug 2 '20 at 19:41
  • $\begingroup$ -further dis-incentivizes new college graduates from going to work for the military. $\endgroup$ – taylor swift Aug 2 '20 at 19:42
  • Supposedly the military trains to cope with GPS jamming just as they train to cope with NBC conditions, or blizzards. Just how well trained they are is a good question.
  • The loss of GPS will also disrupt the civilian rear area supplies. What good is a howitzer that can fire without GPS if the shells are stuck in the traffic jam?
  • The military has become used to GPS-guided or GPS-aided weapons which hit their target or very close to it. Before that it took more shots to do the job. Instead of a single fighter lofting a JDAM from beyond close-range air defense, they had to send an entire squadron. But there are are fewer planes today than during the cold war.
  • $\begingroup$ You completely forgot that the JDAM and other GPS/coordinate based PGMs didn't exist during Desert Storm, which basically was the foundational campaign for modern air war....it was all LGBs then $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Aug 2 '20 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Shalvenay, Desert Storm was fought with Cold War levels of forces. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Aug 2 '20 at 4:11

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