UK Space Command: Tobias Ellwood calls for new force
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Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigson fears future wars will be “won and lost” in the heavens – with General Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of Britain’s Strategic Command, predicting dire consequences for civilians and soldiers alike. Sir Mike, speaking at the launch of Space Command at RAF High Wycombe yesterday, said “reckless” behaviour from the two superpowers was being witnessed “several times a year”.
In addition, “questionable” behaviour included flying satellites close to others as well as being noted on a daily basis.
Sir Mike said Russia had in the last year deployed a combination of satellites which “we would describe as having the characteristic of a weapon and they practised a manoeuvre, that we would say, could only have been done to deliberately destroy another satellite”.
China meanwhile was developing anti-satellite technology, ranging from missiles that directly jam satellites, laser dazzle weapons, electronic jamming and even physical jamming, with Beijing used the country’s own “redundant satellites” for target practice, he added.
If we don’t think, and prepare for that today, then we won’t be ready when the time comes
Sir Mike Wigson
Sir Mike told the Telegraph: “A future conflict may not start in space, but I’m in no doubt that it will come very quickly to space, and it may well be won or lost in space.
“If we don’t think, and prepare for that today, then we won’t be ready when the time comes.”
Sir Patrick emphasised the risks, stressing that while the UK’s satellite infrastructure provided “critical capabilities” to the military, it also enabled technology which “we all know and recognise on our mobile phones to the technology that enables us to navigate the Carrier Strike Group around the globe”.
The new Space Command is being developed using £1.4billion set aside for space over the next ten years in last year’s Defence Command Paper.
When operational, it will offer command and control of all of the UK defence’s space capabilities, including the Space Operations Centre, RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire, and Skynet, Britain’s military communications satellites.
Defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin, the defence procurement minister, said investment in space was “vital” in order to “maintain a battle-winning advantage across this fast-evolving operational domain”.
The move comes after John Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the United States, revealed a classified hypothetical wargame with China had ended in failure because US information systems were knocked out at the beginning of the battle.
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Mr Hyten said: “Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably. An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us. They knew exactly what we’re going to do before we did it.”
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, then-Minister for Defence and Procurement, hinted at the creation of a UK Space Command during her speech to the UK Space Conference in 2019.
Referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty negotiated by the US and the USSR, which declared space to be “the province of all mankind”, she added: “Noble sentiments with which I am sure everyone in this room agrees.
“But we have to recognise that the world has moved on since then.
“Rogue states and all those who challenge the international order, and non-state actors are increasingly gaining access to the sort of high-tech equipment which was once the monopoly of NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries.
“Cyberattackers are using cheap hardware to try to scramble satellites and put observation data to their advantage.
“That’s why we and our close allies have determined it to be a warfighting domain.”
The UK “must be willing and able to defend its assets within the boundaries of international law,” Ms Trevelyan insisted.
She added: “Since 2015, space has been a key operational domain joining air, land, sea and cyber, to join the five domains which inform all of the UK’s joint force defence policy.
“We are working to fully understand the risks, from accidents and natural hazards to a deliberate attack by organised groups.”
Also at the conference, Will Whitehorn, the incoming president of trade organisation UK Space, told Express.co.uk: “We should see the creation of Space Force in the UK.
“My view is that as we go forward, there clearly has to be complete and utter coordination of way that government at all levels responds to the industrialisation of space.”
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