Russia, China accused of weaponizing space
British official says `reckless' acts dangerous
• Russia and China pose a daily threat in space, the chief of the British Royal Air Force said, as he claimed that future conflicts would be “won or lost” beyond the Earth's atmosphere.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said Moscow and Beijing were engaging in “questionable” activity such as flying satellites within “close proximity” of others, as well as more “dangerous activity” that could destroy other satellites, on a daily basis.
The U.K. witnesses “reckless” behaviour from the two adversaries “several times a year.” Wigston said that over the past year, Russia had deployed a combination of satellites that “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 continues to “develop anti-satellite technology, and that's everything from missiles that directly target satellites, to laser dazzle weapons, to electronic jamming to physically ramming other satellites.”
Wigston added that China practises against “their own redundant satellites,” and as such are “demonstrating the ability to do it.”
He warned: “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.”
Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, head of Strategic Command, stressed the disruptive implications a space war would have for civilians and soldiers alike. He said not only does space provide “critical capabilities” to the military, but it enables technology “we all recognize on our mobile phones to the technology that enables us to navigate the Carrier Strike Group around the globe.”
The two chiefs were speaking at the launch of Space Command at RAF High Wycombe, a new joint force that will be staffed by the RAF, British Army, Royal Navy and the civil service. When at full operating capability, it will provide command and control of space capabilities, including the U.K.'s Space Operations Centre, RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire, and SKYNET, the military communications satellites.
The unit, which was born out of the British pounds 1.4 billion investment pledged for space over the next decade in last year's Defence Command Paper, will focus on sharing information about developing threats in the arena. This will include the use of ground based and space based radars, as well information gathering “from other like minded allies.”
Jeremy Quin, minister for Defence Procurement, said investment in space was “vital to maintain a battle-winning advantage across this fast-evolving operational domain”. Sir Patrick added that the unit will aim to have a network of satellites which “can move data around seamlessly”, as well as garner “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from space.”
He said: “Those are the sort of capability areas that we're looking at. The starting point is to understand what's up there and get the basics right.”
Air Vice Marshal Paul Godfrey, commander of U.K. Space Command, added: “The space domain is vital, not just in enabling military operations across the world, but in the day to day lives of everyone across the nation.”