The United States Department of Defense denied reports that the US had spied on India’s Anti-Satellite Missile test by sending a reconnaissance aircraft from its base in the Indian Ocean to monitor the development, PTI reported on Friday.

The Pentagon, however, said the US was aware of India’s first test fire of the missile. “No US assets were spying on India,” department spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel David W Eastburn told PTI. “In fact, the US continues to expand its enduring partnership with India, resulting in enhanced interoperability and stronger economic ties.”

Aircraft Spots, which tracks the movement of military aircraft, had reported on Wednesday that US Air Force reconnaissance aircraft had departed from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean “for a mission in the Bay of Bengal to monitor India’s anti-satellite missile test”.

This was interpreted as the US spying on India’s ASAT test.

Astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said: “I don’t think that it implies coordination between India and the US. This implies that the US intelligence community were aware of the test in advance because to some extent they are spying on India.”

The Pentagon denied the allegation of spying. “It’s a relationship so strong that no topic is off limits,” Eastburn said. “Both nations enjoy shared principles regarding our respect of sovereignty, free and fair trade, adherence to international norms, and peaceful resolution of disputes.”

Air Force Space Command Commander Lieutenant General David D Thompson told the US Congress on Thursday that the US was aware of India’s ASAT test. “First of all, we knew it was coming because of flight bans that India had announced and information they published previously,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces during a Congressional hearing.

“First of all, it was detected, characterised and reported by Air Force Missile Warning systems and Airmen at Buckley AFB [Air Force Base],” Thompson said.

US tracking space debris: Pentagon

The Pentagon on Friday said the US is tracking 250 to 270 pieces of debris in the space generated from the test-firing of an Anti-Satellite Missile by India. It said the International Space Station or ISS was not at risk, PTI reported.

The Pentagon said the US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command is “actively monitoring” the debris and issuing notifications to satellite owners or operators through the Department of Defense’s public space situational awareness sharing website

The Joint Force Space Component Command said it will continue to actively track debris and issue “close approach” notifications until the debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Air Force Space Command Commander Lieutenant General David D Thompson told a Congressional hearing that the number of debris will grow as the debris field spreads.