Home Air UK must be ready to counter threats from space says Defence Secretary
Skynet 5A over Africa.

UK must be ready to counter threats from space says Defence Secretary

The Defence Secretary has warned that Britain must be ready ‘to deter and counter’ threats that are emerging in space.

The Defence Secretary confirmed an increase of personnel working in the defence space sector by a fifth 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.

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.”

Defence Minister Guto Bebb said:

“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.”


  1. And how do we do that without the Americans?

    Just because we increase the number of people working in the Space Ops and Missile Warning Centres within the NADOC our minimal capability is still physically plugged in with the US, much alike Fylingdales.

    I’m not against that at all as I believe in strong ties with the US but this speech seems full of hot air and not a lot of actual action apart from drafting some more people into High Wycombe.

    Maybe the future Skynet constellation will get additional on board defence? Do they already? No idea. Will Eurofighter Typhoons get their own ASAT Missiles? Dream on!

    And is that the Galileo that France is currently trying to remove the UK from?

    • To be fair with regard to Galileo. The comment does suggest planning for alternatives.

      I am not sure what will happen with that as the Galileo project is in serious trouble if it kicks the UK off as we can simply block the upgrade it needs. I see it as political bluster and something that will come to nothing. I fully expect the UK to have full access to Galileo.

      I also think it is quite clear what is being said here. The RAF is taking space threats seriously and will be formulating plans to combat those threats. It mentions Jamming communications which is well within the abilities of the UK defence and space industry. I would also not discount and anti Satellite missile although I would fully expect something like that being a joint US/UK project rather than a purely UK one. It does not suggest that this is the UK going it purely alone it just states that there are now going to be plans formulated. This is a good thing.

  2. Interesting article in today’s FT, behind a paywall so I won’t post a link or excerpts for copyright reasons but the headline is “Britain looks to Australia for help on Galileo rival”.

    The article is basically reporting that we (UK) are aiming to launch tenders for first contracts for our own project by the end of the year with “hopes rising that Australia could become a partner in the programme”. No official comments from Australia, and apparently the UK is looking at all the 5-eyes partners which, with the USA already having GPS, presumably means Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Apparently “Britain is expected to signal its determination to press ahead with its own programme in discussions with EU negotiators next week”.

    • The interesting thing about this story, is that due to Moores law (regards computing) the opening up of Space to civilian companies (Space X) , the age of micro satellites and British expertise in this field, The UK has a really good shot of knocking out a really good affordable system, more advanced and better than what has come before.

      • I agree. I’m quite happy about this news.

        You never know, with an immediate requirement for something like 30 launches just for the satellites for whatever system we create plus other opportunities on top of that there is an alternate universe somewhere where it spurs the UK on to develop its own sovereign launch capabilities again, at least for small loads. If only that bit of the alternate universe would cross over into our own. Unlikely, but a man can dream.

        • New Zealand already has a launch site that due to its location makes it really efficient at putting payloads into a sun synchronous orbit. Go Kiwis!

        • We can use space x to launch the first few then fund them to build up capacity to build the rockets in the UK. Launch from UK, UK protectorates in the Caribbean, Ascension Island, NZ or else. There are ways around all of this.

    • I think the UK will retain full access to Galileo once the EU realises that it can’t have Galileo without the UK…

  3. I think the UK will retain full access to Galileo once the EU realises that it can’t have Galileo without the UK…

      • I agree Lee1. I think on this one the EU are grandstanding, adopting a tough negotiating position. But it will cost us a lot of money we don’t have to go it alone and it will cost the EU a lot of money to replace us in Galileo as well. Common sense will prevail in the end but unfortunately, before we get there, we’ll have to go through the motions of being really serious in setting up an alternative of our own and withholding export licences for the components and assemblies made in U.K. I also agree with Daniele that there is a lot of hot air here. Will there be any new funding? Or are we just creating more Air Vice Marshals and their staffs at High Wycombe or Waddington? Let’s hope something does come out of it but not at the expense of other military capability please!

        • It will cost us a lot of money to go it alone. However Galileo upgrade will not go ahead if they kick us off as we will simply block its budget. The EU would have to develop their own version from scratch again. We have a blocking vote on the ESA board.

  4. What is annoying is that the UK has paid 15% of Galileo and the French (under the auspices of the EU) are trying to remove us to get a commercial advantage for their own companies. To those that claim the EU are allies need to look at the stark evidence to the contrary. We need to recoup the 15% and also make sure they cannot use the ascension and Falkland islands as base stations. This also underlines why we need to get rid of our overseas aid spending and spend the money on our own defence and security i.e. up the 2% to 2.7% using aid money that is currently wasted on frivolous things. This can help support a fifth generation native fighter jet that can operate on the border between space and air operations. Maybe also this new game changer fighter should also use a hybrid sabre engine. The increased funding would also help create a “five eyes” next generation satellite system.

    • Peter, personally I don’t trust the US any more or any less than I trust France or Germany (the EU doesn’t make decisions, the main countries within it do). Each country will do what it thinks is in its own best interest and it can’t be blamed for that. It’s all down to how we as a country react to that and here I agree with you that we need to get as tough as we can under the circumstances. Tracking stations in Ascension and the Falklands, export licences for kit built in Britain, threats to withdraw all cooperation on security matters, etc., whatever it takes. This is all part of a negotiating stance. In the end I hope and think common sense will prevail on all sides. It would take very long, be quite difficult and cost a lot of money for the German, French and Italian satellite industries to replace the U.K. contribution to Galileo. I don’t believe that is the motivation here. I think it’s a negotiating posture designed to throw yet another spanner in the works of an already overstretched and quagmired british government.

      • I trust the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand a hell of a lot more than the German’s and French. History tells us that the French and German’s are not only aggressively nationalistic but also untrustworthy in the extreme. The US supplies us with a lot of sensitive technology, equipment and information that they do not provide to any other nation. Think of the Trident weapon system for instance as well as the nuclear propulsion plant and the design of the submarines where a lot of technical know how is passed back and forth between the UK and US. It maybe a negotiating tactic for the Galileo system but it is a childish one and shows vindictiveness on the part of the European nations and EU. Playing with continental security is not only childish but incredibly stupid too.

    • Overseas aid while needing an overhaul in overseeing the way it is spent is an important part of our security and it would not be wise to ditch it completely.

      Galileo however will go ahead and the UK will have full access. The EU are attempting to use it as a bargaining chip but forgot that the UK can simply block the upgrade altogether through ESA and leave them without a fully functioning system. I think the EU forgot that ESA does not equal EU…

      • I think disaster aid is the only thing we should fund and that should be a budget that gets absorbed into the defence budget if unspent. The aid budget should be a maximum of £1Billion per annum if that. There is no evidence whatsoever to demonstrate it aids our security. Actually there is plenty of evidence that is reinforces and supports rampant cronyism in the UK and overseas. Let’s see how Galileo plays out and if the EU is using it as a bargaining chip. It does sound like the EU and the associated countries are very childish if this is the case. Playing with the EU and UK security with one of your key allies is not only childish but stupid too.

        • I agree about foreign aid, we are not going to get rid of it completely, if it has to be there it has to be there, but it does need to be reduced, it is far too high. Use some of that to increase the defence budget up to 3%.

        • I agree about foreign aid, we are not going to get rid of it completely, if it has to be there it has to be there, but it does need to be reduced, it is far too high. Use some of that to increase the defence budget up to 3%.

        • Why can’t we use some of the Foreign Aid Budget to build our own GNSS? We can then give free access to it even at a secure level to foreign nations in need as part of said foreign aid.

          Hope someone from (our) government reads these articles and comments and re-uses at least some of the good ideas presented here.

  5. It’s fireball xl5 all over again.

    Without the USA we wouldnt have a viable security and defence strategy.

    • Ditto. Use Space X for few initial launches for UK GNSS (shall we call it “Newton”) in the US then fund them to build the factory to build the rockets in the UK and launch them from Isle of Wight, some other UK dependency, or Ascension Island or …

      • Good idea DRS, it is a highly advanced industry and one of the future too so it would be a good industry to get into with products of our own.

  6. Suddenly all those crown dependencies all around the planet gain further strategic value as ground stations for the UKs own GPS system. Bringing on board the other 5 Eyes – I’m sure the US would appreciate a fail-over system – makes more sense than being a member of the EUs Galileo.

  7. I wonder if we are we going to end up buying back all those Satellite Ground Stations that were “sold” off as part of Skynet 5?


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