The Royal Air Force is preparing for a space war as Russia have been testing anti-satellite weapons that could shut down UK military operations.
The RAF’s senior officer Sir Mike Wigston warned that Britain must catch up with its enemies as he anticipates Vladimir Putin to exploit our ‘complete reliance’ on space.
In recent months Russia has successfully tested an anti-satellite weapon around the same time the UK formed its first Space Command, which is led by the RAF.
The Command’s role is to enhance the country’s ability to defend its assets in space – including satellites used for transmissions during military operations.
It also intends to launch its first rocket into space next year.
Air Chief Marshal Wigston said: “Russia has developed its anti-satellite capability, against its own satellites so far, having watched the UK and US operations and realised our complete reliance on space.”
Military communications are satellite-dependent while soldiers and military vehicles, including aircraft, rely on GPS. Destruction of British satellites could also grind everyday life to a halt.
Details are expected to be outlined today in a defence command paper – with up to £16.5billion expected to be invested in new technologies.
Russia’s PL19 Nudol is a so-called direct ascent anti-satellite weapon.
It is shot through the earth’s atmosphere and into space where it intercepts its targets. It is a variant of the A-235 anti-ballistic missile system originally designed to take out Nato rockets flying towards Moscow.
Russia, along with the US and UK, is among 100 nations that have pledged to abide by a space treaty that obligates signatories to explore outer space solely for peaceful purposes.
But the UK believes Russia and China are breaking its terms by testing systems that could be used in a conflict. Around five per cent of the 2,6000 satellites in orbit are the UK registered.
ACM Wigston added that what happened in space would affect everyone’s day to day lives because modern technology is so reliant on satellites.
According to defence sources, Russia and China are also testing laser dazzlers which ‘blind’ sensors so aircraft cannot see their targets and lasers which could be fired from a satellite to destroy another satellite.
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The RAF is also expanding its development of unmanned aircraft and ACM Wigston predicted that by 2040 80 per cent of RAF aircraft will be un-crewed. Drones such as the Mosquito will be heavily armed and will fly ‘on the wing’ of manned fighter jets such as Typhoon.
The Mosquito, which is currently in the prototype development phase, will have the ability to shoot down enemy aircraft and avoid surface-to-air missiles. The RAF also intends to deploy swarms of 10 to 20 smaller drones flying together and blitzing targets.