In what can be seen as the UK’s foray into space warfare, Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fighter jets will soon be engaged in an anti-satellite mission, involving the simulated destruction of ‘hostile Chinese and Russian satellites’. The newly-established UK Space Command will conduct the exercise.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had last November announced the creation of the UK’s Space Command, making it the Commonwealth’s biggest defense expansion since the Cold War.
This month the Space Command announced its first joint chief, Air Commodore Paul Godfrey. The command is currently stationed at RAF High Wycombe and the Air Commodore would be promoted to Air Vice Marshal rank.
According to Sputnik International, the UK Space Command would soon be sending Royal Air Force’s Typhoon fighter jets to the edge of the atmosphere to conduct an anti-satellite mission drill, involving the simulated destruction of hostile satellites.
The training missions are likely to involve ‘Top Gun’ pilots, who would take part in the simulated attacks against ‘hostile Russian and Chinese satellites’.
The training flights would be conducted at an altitude of 40,000 feet (12 kilometers) above sea level, while the real-life attacks could see Typhoons release their payloads (ASAT missiles) against satellites even at 60,000 feet.
The UK’s Air Chief Marshal had already expressed his contentions over the militarization of space but pointed out that the Armed Forces needed to be prepared and not be caught off guard if such a situation arises.
Satellites are important for communication, broadcast, and surveillance in both the military and civilian spheres, and the destruction of such assets could prove to be catastrophic for a nation’s economic and social well-being.
“A future conflict may not start in space but I am in no doubt it will transition very quickly to space, and it may even be won or lost in space. So we have to be ready to protect and, if necessary, defend our critical national interests,” Wigston pointed out, referring to “China, Russia and others developing anti-satellite capabilities”.
Currently, the United States, Russia, China, and India have proven their anti-satellite capabilities, while many others have established some sort of space warfare organizations or are constantly monitoring the developments in the field.
The whole concept of space warfare has drawn immense criticism from liberals and the science community. There has also been rising concern over space debris in the form of spent rocket stages and expired satellites and how they pose a challenge to future space missions.