US-UK special relationship deepens in space

The US has no nearer ally than the UK. The 2 nations have collaborated on space-related safety efforts for many years.

U.S. and U.Ok. area officers at the moment are discussing the subsequent steps to strengthen the partnership, a dialog that has gained momentum in current months on account of considerations that satellites have gotten army targets and a stronger protection posture is required to discourage and counter threats.

Brig. Gen. Devin Pepper, U.S. House Command’s deputy director of technique, plans and coverage, mentioned U.S.-U.Ok. collaboration in area entered a brand new section in April when the commanders of U.S. House Command and U.Ok. House Command signed an Enhanced House Cooperation memorandum of understanding referred to as the ESC MOU.

The ESC MOU is a non-legally binding framework for deeper army cooperation within the area area. It requires exchanging extra info, harmonizing army area necessities, and figuring out potential joint actions.

The teamwork between the 2 nations is already robust, however the MOU “seeks to deepen collaboration,” Pepper informed table4. “The truth that now we have a U.Ok. one-star basic on the U.S. House Command headquarters employees speaks volumes.”

Brigadier Paul Tedman, a British Military officer, works full-time at U.S. House Command headquarters in Colorado Springs, as deputy director for coverage and strategic partnerships. In that position, he serves as an change officer for a three-year time period underneath the U.S. chain of command.

U.Ok. House Command headquarters is positioned at RAF Excessive Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Credit score: U.Ok. House Command

U.S. House Command is a combatant command the Pentagon re-established in 2019 to supervise army operations within the area area. The UK stood up U.Ok. House Command in April 2021.

Pepper mentioned the improved MOU with the UK might function a mannequin to boost U.S. and U.Ok. partnerships with different nations.

“We established a program known as ‘pathway to partnership,’ which establishes a technique for allies and companions to combine with U.S. House Command,” he mentioned. “The pathway permits any area succesful nation to affix on the applicable degree after which progressively deepen their integration with the U.S. over time.”

In a press release to table4, Tedman mentioned the ESC MOU with the U.Ok. is the “most mature degree of this pathway.” The UK is “within the vanguard of this work and we’ll rapidly comply with with different nations later this 12 months,” he added. The MOU “permits us the liberty to determine areas of mutual curiosity in addition to cohere and converge our efforts.”

The US and Britain are signatories of the Mixed House Operations Imaginative and prescient 2031, together with Australia, Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand. The doc encourages accountable use of area and acknowledges elevated threats from “aggressive counter-space packages of different nation states.”

This overarching settlement, introduced in February, serves as a basis, mentioned Pepper. The U.S. and the U.Ok., in the meantime, are additionally excited by pursuing initiatives and initiatives on a bilateral foundation, which led to the improved MOU.


Throughout a gathering in England in June, a workforce led by Tedman mapped out priorities for the subsequent three years to extend cooperation with the USA, mentioned Royal Air Power Air Commodore Mark Flewin, head of operations, plans and coaching at U.Ok. House Command.

The assembly happened at U.Ok. House Command headquarters in Excessive Wycombe, northwest of London.

Flewin, who hosted the assembly, informed table4 that areas more likely to be pursued underneath the improved MOU embody joint growth of recent capabilities, wargames and coaching workouts, and larger info sharing.

“Every little thing we do in area relies on efficient info sharing,” he mentioned. “So it’s actually necessary we get this proper.”

The U.Ok. Ministry of Protection is creating new area programs with U.S. cooperation in thoughts, mentioned Flewin. These embody a transport layer of small satellites in low Earth orbit known as Minerva, and an intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) constellation to help army operations.

“The partnership with the U.S. in area has been an evolutionary journey,” mentioned Flewin. “The improved MOU is only a pure subsequent stepping stone. It’s very a lot interoperability alternatives, as we go after that collective endeavor to maintain our freedom of motion in area.”

Flewin mentioned he couldn’t talk about specifics of how the U.S. and U.Ok. area instructions would possibly conduct joint operations. “However suffice it to say that it’s completely core to the improved MOU having the ability to function seamlessly.”

Wargaming and coaching are excessive on the listing, too. British forces have participated in occasions just like the annual U.S. Schriever Wargames, a multinational occasion that started in 2001.

The U.Ok. additionally sends personnel to House Flag — an annual train began by the U.S. Air Power in 2017 and now managed by the House Power — and International Sentinel, a multinational area situational consciousness train launched by U.S. Strategic Command in 2016 and now overseen by U.S. House Command.

Flewin mentioned U.Ok. area forces enormously profit from these coaching occasions, and his command is now seeking to arrange a U.Ok.-based area train to complement U.S. efforts.

“We do have an ambition sooner or later, actually throughout the timeframe as much as 2025, to run a U.Ok.-led area train for the good thing about the broader worldwide group,” he mentioned. One other aspiration is to develop a U.Ok. House Academy that will provide U.S.-accredited programs “so U.S. personnel can partake in our schooling and coaching similar to we partake in U.S. schooling and coaching.”


Efforts to step up U.S.-U.Ok. collaboration in area coincide with Britain’s plans to extend investments in new capabilities, Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, commander of U.Ok. House Command, mentioned final month in an interview with Authorities Issues, a U.S. public affairs speak present.

Godfrey, who was in Washington in June for conferences with senior protection leaders, famous that the UK launched a brand new army area technique in February and introduced plans to take a position $1.7 billion in area applied sciences over the subsequent decade.

Shut cooperation with the USA goes again a few years, notably in areas like area surveillance and missile warning. U.Ok. House Command operates the Royal Air Power Fylingdales ballistic missile early warning radar that helps the U.Ok. and U.S. militaries. For the reason that Chilly Conflict, the radar has been a part of the U.S. missile protection system and the U.S. area surveillance community that displays objects re-entering the environment.

Royal Air Power Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey and U.S. Military Gen. James Dickinson, U.Ok. House Command and U.S. House Command chiefs, meet on June 21, 2021. The go to marked Dickinson’s first go to to the headquarters for the reason that institution of U.Ok. House Command April 1. Credit score: U.S. House Command

The Enhanced House Cooperation MOU signed with U.S. House Command in April “permits us now to take a look at the place we’re going sooner or later and the way we collaborate,” mentioned Godfrey. U.Ok. army budgets are far smaller than the U.S., “so I’ve acquired to be sure that the place we go in functionality phrases, we actually do add worth,” he mentioned.

“Most of the discussions we’re now having are about understanding the place the U.S. goes, the place we are able to add worth, and with the broader companions as effectively, the allies and companions from 5 Eyes, the Mixed House Operations Imaginative and prescient and NATO as effectively,” mentioned Godfrey. “So there’s an terrible lot that we have to do.”

The 5 Eyes is a decades-old intelligence alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

“The U.S. is the worldwide allied chief in area,” Godfrey mentioned. “And so I might go off and spend that billion and a half on all types of various issues. But when I speak about it being slightly cog, and if we are able to put our little cog within the U.S. machine in precisely the proper place, that can make it extra environment friendly.”

There are rising threats which can be constructing within the area area, Godfrey added. “The U.S. can’t do that alone.”

He known as Russia’s Nov. 15 live-fire take a look at of an anti-satellite missile “one of many harder issues we’ve needed to cope with.” The take a look at destroyed a defunct Soviet-era satellite tv for pc, creating 1000’s of items of orbital particles.

The No. 1 precedence now for U.Ok. House Command is area area consciousness and “understanding what’s going on out in that surroundings,” mentioned Godfrey. “And that’s very a lot the place the U.Ok.- U.S. collaboration and the opposite allies’ collaboration are available in,” he added. “We’re all wanting on the similar factor in area and all utilizing our completely different sensors to construct that image of what’s occurring.”

Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, U.S. chief of area operations, famous in a speech final 12 months on the London Air & House Energy Convention that the alliance with the UK was constructed over the course of greater than 50 years and reached a brand new degree in 2019 with Operation Olympic Defender.

The U.Ok. was the primary nation to be invited to affix the U.S. House Command-led Olympic Defender, a coalition created to shore up area defenses towards aggressors and deter hostile actions in area. The opposite members are Australia and Canada.

Below the settlement, the U.Ok. grew to become the primary nation to achieve entry to the Standardized Astrodynamics Algorithm Library, or SAAL.

The info within the SAAL library is used to assist predict the places and trajectories of satellites and objects in orbit. Entry to the SAAL permits analysts at U.Ok. area operations facilities to interpret, predict and combine information shared by the U.S. 18th House Management Squadron, at Vandenberg House Power Base, California, the U.S. House Command unit chargeable for area site visitors administration.


Flewin mentioned area launch is one other space the place he sees rising cooperation with the USA. U.Ok. House Command, he added, is vastly supportive of efforts by the nation’s civil area group, the U.Ok. House Company, to launch satellites from the UK.

Though the U.Ok. House Company is just not a part of the MOU with U.S. House Command, Britain doesn’t separate civil and army efforts like the USA.

The RAF Fylingdales phased array radar in North Yorkshire helps U.Ok. and U.S. missile protection and area surveillance. Credit score: U.Ok. House Command

“I believe one of many actually key factors for us is that protection and civil area usually are not separable. They very a lot work hand in glove,” he mentioned.

The U.Ok. House Company has been main a push to determine industrial smallsat launch capabilities from U.Ok. spaceports. In June 2020, it signed the Know-how Safeguards Settlement with the U.S. authorities, paving the best way for U.S. corporations to function from U.Ok. spaceports.

U.Ok. launch is necessary for the nation’s protection technique as effectively, mentioned Flewin. “Our civil companions are main the enterprise, and we’re very a lot in a supporting position,” he mentioned.

Flewin is particularly enthusiastic concerning the U.Ok.’s burgeoning partnership with the U.S. Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace (NRO).

The NRO introduced in Might it’s teaming up with the U.Ok. Ministry of Defence to launch experimental smallsats to low Earth orbit in late 2022 on a Virgin Orbit air-launched rocket. Virgin Orbit’s service plane will take off from Newquay Airport in Cornwall, England, to carry out what’s anticipated to be the primary area launch to originate from British soil.

The Virgin Orbit LauncherOne mission will fly two Prometheus 2 cubesats carrying pathfinder experiments in help of the Minerva remote-sensing constellation the U.Ok. is creating to watch radio alerts from area. Prometheus 2 is a collaboration between the U.Ok. Ministry of Defence and worldwide companions, together with the NRO.

One other payload on that mission is a joint experiment developed by the U.S. Naval Analysis Laboratory and the U.Ok. Protection Science and Know-how Laboratory, known as CIRCE, quick for Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment. The mission will assist researchers higher perceive adjustments within the Earth’s higher environment, which is necessary to the army as a result of it impacts the efficiency of over-the-horizon communications and radar.

Prometheus 2 and CIRCE are “two nice examples of collaboration … and one thing we’re very enthusiastic about,” mentioned Flewin.

The U.Ok. House Command, he mentioned, sees these area missions as a “actual alternative to seize the creativeness of the nation and inject that keenness into youthful folks when it comes to the alternatives that the area career could provide them sooner or later.”

This text initially appeared within the July 2022 difficulty of table4 journal.

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