military satellite

UK government to ramp up defences to space attacks

Image credit: DT

The UK needs to be ready to counter threats from space, including jamming military satellites, according to defence secretary Gavin Williamson.

Announcing the launch of the UK’s first Defence Space Strategy, Williamson said “We must make sure we are primed and ready to deter and counter the intensifying threats to our everyday life that are emerging in space.”

He said he plans to boost the number of personnel working in the defence space sector by a fifth over five years to more than 600, and said the RAF Air Command would take on responsibility for “command and control” of UK military space operations.

The strategy will include plans to protect UK operations against “emerging space-based threats”, such as the “jamming of civilian satellites used for broadcasters and satellite navigation to support military capabilities”.

It will also look at the UK’s current contribution to the EU Galileo programme, as well as exploring ways British companies could benefit from an alternative.

Galileo is a global navigation satellite system in the process of development and launch by the EU.

The €10bn project will provide a free global positioning system with precision to within one metre, offering an independent alternative to the USA’s GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and China’s BeiDou system.

But concerns prevail that British companies could be frozen out of the Galileo satellite navigation project due to Brexit. 

Williamson said: “We must make sure we are primed and ready to deter and counter the intensifying threats to our everyday life that are emerging in space.

“That’s why today I’m announcing the RAF is taking the lead in this area and why we plan to increase the number of personnel covering space.

“Satellite technology is not just a crucial tool for our Armed Forces but vital to our way of life, whether that be access to our mobile phones, the internet or television.

“It is essential we protect our interests and assets from potential adversaries who seek to cause major disruption and do us harm.

“Britain is a world leader in the space industry and our defence scientists and military personnel have played a central role in the development of the EU’s Galileo satellite programme alongside British companies, so it is important we also review our contribution and how we plan for alternative systems in this crucial area.”

Defence Minister Guto Bebb, who is set to speak at the Defence Space Conference in London on Monday, will say space is a “vital part” of the British economy.

“With the launch of this strategy, we are setting our aspirations much higher, to ensure that our industry continues to benefit from this growth in satellite technology.

“We are investing millions into Britain’s most innovative companies to help us launch forward in the space domain.”

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