Space wars: UK urged to ramp up galactic defence to counter Russia and China

China: Satellite images show activity near India border

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Dr Rob Johnson, Director of the Oxford Changing Character of War Centre, said the US and the UK should come to terms with he fact that the “age has already past” where space will stay “pristine” and “un-militarised like the Arctic”. He told the Defence Select Committee on Tuesday: “I really hope the UK realises how serious that is.

“What it means is China has the ability to manoeuvre space vehicles, as has Russia, that could easily interdict Western space assets.”

The expert explained this could be achieved “either by electronic means or physical means”.

He said: “They could continue to operate their own GPS system without any reference to any western damage points putting the western world at significant military disadvantage.

“I would urge a redoubling of efforts by the United Kingdom to examine how we protect ourselves from space.”

In December, the highest ranking military officer in the US armed forces has warned “the next Pearl Harbour could happen in space”.

General Mark A Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited space warfare as an area of concern when asked about the vulnerabilities of modern technologies used by the US military.

Speaking to the Brookings Institution, he listed protecting electricity, the internet and space as important issues.

He said: “Space as a domain, for example, is critical.

“There’s an argument to be made and many have made it in various unclassified writings that a country might try to seek a first move or advantage, for example, to blind the United States.

“The next Pearl Harbour could happen in space, [as] many people have written.”

The UK is set to outline its reviewed defence policy, which according to the Telegraph will include measures against space and cyber attacks.

Last month, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston warned that while it is still seen as “contentious” to discuss space as a military domain, it would be “tantamount to negligence” if the UK armed forces disregarded the threats posed to key satellite systems such as communications and GPS navigation.

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He said: “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.

“We have already seen nations such as China, Russia and others developing anti-satellite capabilities.”

While the UK does not yet possess anti-satellite missiles, the US has had the technology since the 1980s.

Russia has now unveiled two types of space weapons: direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles which fired from the ground, and a space-based system said last year to have been launched from another satellite.

Brandon J. Weichert wrote a 2019 essay titled ‘Preparing for a Russian ‘Space Pearl Harbor’’, which appeared in Orbis.

Weichert lists military communications, early missile warning systems and civilian banking transactions as reliant on satellites.

He adds that taking away the “instantaneous communication and coordination” the satellites provide would render the US military “deaf, dumb and blind”.

In a separate piece for the New York Post, Weichert suggests “Beijing or Moscow could use their technological might to rewrite the geopolitical order in their favour”.

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