China isn’t depending on America’s Global Positioning System anymore—a development that could have military implications. The Beidou Navigation Satellite System went live today, broadcasting directions to China and its “surrounding area,” the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. has announced. Currently comprised of 10 satellites, Beidou is believed to be less accurate than GPS, but it gives the Chinese military the ability to identify and track US ships and military targets, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“China still has a long way to go,” one paper in the Journal of Strategic Studies observed recently, but with the system it is “acquiring greater ability not only to defend against intruding aircraft carriers but to project force as well.” The official announcement, however, made no mention of the system’s military purposes, touting only its free civilian applications and its main advantage over GPS: support for SMS messaging. (Read more China stories.)