Space

HMS Queen Elizabeth To Get Dedicated Space Specialist

Space is becoming a bigger focus for the military, with the domain now third on a list of 18 potential threats.

A dedicated space specialist will soon be working on board aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, advising the Royal Navy on satellite communications. 

It comes as the UK's first military Space Command is set to become operational next year – led by a former RAF pilot.

Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, Commander of UK Space Command, said: "We are putting a liaison officer onto HMS Queen Elizabeth.

"She will be, I think, front and centre when it comes to day-to-day operations. 

"As well as having a daily weather brief, there'll be a daily space weather brief, because that side of things is important for satellite communications and so on."

The UK military does already have a foothold in space, with North Yorkshire's RAF Fylingdales keeping constant watch for incoming missiles and space debris.

British personnel are also working with the US military on the Artemis programme, a low-orbit satellite that could beam live video into the cockpit of a fighter jet.

But the recent defence review said the UK needs to be a much bigger player, and the Government has pledged nearly £6.5bn to space over the next decade, with the new Space Command receiving about £1.5bn.

Air Vice-Marshal Godfrey said the Integrated Review made it clear "space is very much an enabling domain".

HMS Queen Elizabeth is to depart on maiden operational deployment this spring (Picture: Royal Navy).

"From a military perspective, we'll be looking at space debris, we'll be looking at upper satellite conjunctions, those sorts of things."

Space Command will be the operational end of the UK's space programme, looking at defending Britain's assets in space from attack.

Its first job is to reduce the vulnerability of the UK, with space now third on a list of 18 potential threats.

China and Russia are seen as NATO's main space adversaries.

Both Beijing and Moscow have already tested missiles that can destroy an orbiting satellite.

Space Command is also overseeing plans for the first British satellite launch, scheduled to take place from Scotland next year.

While £5bn has been earmarked for Skynet 6, an updated satellite communications system for the British military.

There are also plans for a new Space Academy, to train a generation of defence space specialists, and a new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system.

But Air Vice-Marshal Godfrey said "a lot of what is happening in the space domain… is highly classified".

"I think what we need to do... is start to look at where we can talk to the general public as well as everyone else, in terms of why we are doing certain things, why we are putting a particular satellite up there," he said.