“We need to look at the Heavens for our next National Defence Review”

Article written by /u/Markthemonkey888.

Markthemonkey888 is currently a working peer in the House of Lords, with an expertise in defence and environmental policies.

Space, the final frontier.

The second decade of this century has just come to a close, mankind are ever closer to conquering the heavens. With the advancement in spaceflight technology and independent private space companies such as SpaceX, we as a species, are on the verge of returning to the moon, and going beyond to colonize mars. We are on the verge of technologies which will allow mankind to explore our solar system, and to boldly go where no man has gone before. 

But with new opportunities, comes new threats. For the United Kingdom, we have lagged behind in defence space technologies compared to most other major countries. Ever since the infamous ZIRCON satellite, we have largely ignored this field, which is becoming ever more important. 

By conservative estimates, we are behind most nations in military satellite and anti-satellite technology by 5-10 years, and 15 years behind the likes of US and China when it comes to outer space technology. It is of my opinion, and many of those in think tanks and academia all across the UK, that this trend of 0 spending in military space defence programs should stop. As one analyst wisely put, “Space underpins everything. The successful military powers of the future are going to be those that most easily and quickly assimilate change in the defence environment to their advantage.”

With India, China, Russia and the US capable of intermediate-advance anti-satellite technology, and the ever growing arsonal of military spy, communication satellites, the advancement in military space planes, and even the development and deployment of hypersonic missiles, the United Kingdom can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. 

We are however, presented with an opportunity this next term with the upcoming National Defence Review to correct our mistakes, and attempt to catch up to the world standard when it comes to our Space defense. I have compiled the following suggestion in order to catch the RAF up to standard.

Recommendation 1. The Creation of a Defence Space Command under the Royal Air Force.

The UK should follow in the footsteps of India, France, Russia, US and China, and establish an agency/command under the current RAF that deals exclusively with military satellite, satellite tracking and anti-satellite warfare. This organization will also work on the integration of space technology into other branches of the armed forces, like a way to beam high-resolution video directly into RAF cockpits. This would also make funding any future projects easier as well. 

Recommendation 2. Start the development/purchase of Anti-Satellite missiles.

The UK should possess the capabilities to shoot down dangerous or hostile objects in space. We should work with the French in developing the Aster 30 anti-air missile family with anti-satellite capabilities. France has already expressed interest in anti-satellite missiles back in 2016, and the Aster 30 is a stable enough platform to support any type of augmentation. Or alternatively, we could purchase a small arsonal of SM-3 land/sea based or ASM-135 air launched anti-satellite missiles from the US to fill our need.

Recommendation 3. Replace the aging Skynet 5 program.

Skynet 5 communication satellites have dutifully served the armed forces for the last 10 years. These satellites have provided the UK with invaluable resources such as secure communication methods and instant battlefield-command communication globally. We need to replace and upgrade these satellites before they start going out of service. I propose replacing the 4 satellite in Skynet 5 with 6 new satellites in Skynet 6 to increase global presence and coverage. 

Recommendation 4. Develop a new class of reconnaissance satellites.

In the age of information warfare, a pair of eyes in the sky is sometimes key to decide the outcome of a battle. We need our own reconnaissance satellites to assists our UAVs in gathering information for our armed forces. This would also help us monitor situation closely all over the world, and remove our reliance on the NSA for satellite information.

Recommendation 5. Join the US-led Operation Olympic Defender.

It is about time that the UK joined the US and its allies on the research and development of new technologies. Pretty simple here. 

If we are able to include and achieve all five of my recommendations within the next or two Defence review cycle, we will not only have caught up to the rest of the world in technology and capabilities, but potentially become a world leader on the issue. 

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