The first tenders for the new satellite navigation system are expected by the end of this year with the UK looking to collaborate with countries in the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance.
The Five Eyes brings the UK, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand into the world’s most complete and comprehensive intelligence alliance. The Five Eyes is widely regarded as the world’s most significant intelligence alliance. The origins of it can be traced back to the context of the Second World War and by its necessity of sharing vital information mainly between Britain and the United States so both countries could enhance their close war effort.
The Financial Times has reported that Britain is to press ahead with its own satellite navigation system should the European Union continue to insist that the UK be barred from secure elements of Galileo.
According to the Financial Times:
“Under EU rules, non-member states cannot access or work on Galileo’s military-grade signal, known as the public regulated service, without a defence and security agreement. However, British-based companies such as CGI UK have largely designed and developed the security around this highly encrypted service while Airbus Defence and Space in the UK has managed Galileo’s ground control centres. Surrey Satellite Technologies manufactures the satellite payloads.
This work will now have to be transferred out of the UK when it leaves the EU in March 2019, and UK companies are already being excluded from discussions on the system’s future development.”
Defence Secretary Gavin 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.”
As part of the EU’s Galileo programme, UK companies have led the way in developing innovative satellite technology, with a focus on the encryption side of things. The UK has contributed £1.2bn in funding to the programme and provided vital ground infrastructure in the Falklands and the Ascension Islands say the MoD.
An MoD release states:
“Participation in Galileo with the appropriate level of access and involvement remains our preferred option, however we are working on alternative options, and as part of this the MOD will work with the UK Space Agency to explore opportunities for UK companies.”
Speaking at the conference, Defence Minister Guto Bebb said:
“Space is a vital part our economy, with an industry worth £14 billion a year. 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.”