In Brief

UK facing ‘intensifying threat’ from space, says Defence Secretary

Gavin Williamson announces plans to tackle risk of technological assaults from hostile states

The UK will boost the number of defence personnel working in the space sector by 20% over five years in order to counter “intensifying threats”, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said today.

Announcing the launch of the UK’s first ever defence space strategy, Williamson said Britain must be prepared for technological assaults from adversaries.

“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.

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

The RAF will be responsible for “command and control” of military space operations.

“The increase in staffing will take the number of people working in the sector to more than 600 by 2023,” reports the London Evening Standard.

Williamson said the new strategy will protect against “emerging space-based threats” such as the “jamming of civilian satellites used for broadcasters and satellite navigation to support military capabilities”.

He added: “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.”

The move “follows an increasingly bitter dispute between Whitehall and Brussels” over “the access the UK, the European Union’s biggest spender on defence, will have to the bloc’s satellite navigation project after it leaves the EU”, The Independent reports.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said last week that British companies could not be directly involved in a new EU satellite navigation system following Brexit, although Britain would have access to its signal.

“It cannot be business as usual,” Barnier said. “Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

The Financial Times reports that the European Commission has sent a letter to the UK government warning that security elements of the project needed to be protected to avoid them being “irretrievably compromised” by being shared with the UK, which will become a “third party” when it quits the EU.

The announcement that the UK will plan for “alternative systems” in this area “signals that the Government may well be resigned to being excluded from the project”, says The Independent.

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