RAF Chief: Space Access 'Fundamental To National Security'

The head of the Royal Air Force has stated that access to space is "fundamental" to national security.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston was speaking about the future role of the Air Force during a speech at RAF Waddington.

"Our access to space is fundamental to national security and any loss or disruption to our satellite services would have a disastrous effect on people's day-to-day lives," the Chief of the Air Staff said.

Speaking as the UK marks 80 years since the Battle of Britain, the military chief said a similar level of innovation is required to keep Britain safe today.

"We operate today in an increasingly unstable world of persistent challenge and competition between states and other hostile actors, and fast-evolving threats to our nation.

"In that increasingly unstable world, what the RAF does on behalf of the nation is as important as it has ever been.

"Air and space power gives our government the ability to act worldwide, at range, at speed, precisely, and with minimal physical and political risk – we play a decisive role in keeping the UK safe 24/7."

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston has said access to space is "fundamental to national security" (Picture: UK Space Agency).
The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston has said access to space is "fundamental to national security" (Picture: UK Space Agency).

ACM Wigston said space will be the battlefield to watch, adding: "We can no longer assume the unchallenged access to air or Space that we have enjoyed for the last three decades.

"The threats from hostile state actors are increasingly more sophisticated, with new combat aircraft, missiles, and stealth technology, which challenge our superiority."

There was a similar sentiment voiced by Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace on Monday when he said: "The static concept of war versus peace no longer applies as we are contested on either side of the threshold of armed conflict on a regular basis."

ACM Wigston also said the upcoming Integrated Review "comes at a critical moment".

"Defence does need to rebalance and evolve faster, to innovate relentlessly and transform to ensure we have the forces we need.

"Instead of mass and mobilisation, defence will focus more on speed, readiness and global reach - what air and space power does best."

The government-wide Integrated Review was launched earlier this year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but was temporarily paused in April due to coronavirus.

Mr Johnson has described it as the deepest review of British foreign, defence and security policy "since the Cold War".

A CGI image of aTempest aircraft flying over London's River Thames (Picture: MOD).
A CGI image of a Tempest aircraft flying over London's River Thames (Picture: MOD).

The Chief Of Air Staff also acknowledged the environmental pressures on the Air Force, saying the RAF must act "with even greater precision, lethality, and in more places around the world simultaneously than we do today; and we're going to have to do it sustainably too, in terms of both resource and environment".

A report by the National Audit Office in May said the Ministry of Defence needs to make "major changes" in how its equipment and estates are run if it is to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the department has made progress, it is still responsible for 50% of the Government's emissions.

ACM Wigston also singled out the Tempest fighter concept for the role it will play in defending the UK from sophisticated missile threats, saying it will "transform the combat battlespace in a way not seen since the advent of the jet age".

The combat aircraft is due to replace the Typhoon by 2035.

The Future Combat Air System and Team Tempest have generated thousands of jobs across the UK, including opportunities for 2500 new apprenticeships over the next five years, according to the Chief of Air Staff.

He also mentioned his aim to make the Royal Air Force more diverse, saying that by April 2021, 10% of recruits will be from UK ethnic minorities, and 20% will be women. 

In July, he was one of six senior military officers to sign an open letter pledging to improve diversity and inclusion in the Armed Forces.

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