15 July 2020
Space Force Tightening Ties with U.K.
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
The U.S. Space Force wants to collaborate more closely with the United Kingdom on space operations as the two nations face increased threats, the service's top officer said July 15.
“The U.S. remains committed to advancing our space capabilities together,” said Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond, the chief of space operations. As an ally and partner, the United Kingdom provides “integrated capabilities and forces along with unique perspectives, regional relationships and the information that improves our understanding of the space domain.”
The Pentagon's 2018 National Defense Strategy directed the U.S. military to strengthen its global alliances. The Royal Air Force — which handles the bulk of the U.K. military's space missions — is a prime example of a partner with which there should be more collaboration, Raymond said during remarks at the London-based Chief of the Air Staff’s Air & Space Power Conference, which was hosted virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are stronger together, especially in the space domain,” he said.
The Space Force, the newest branch of the armed forces, was stood up in December. Officials have since been working to flesh out a number of details such as its organizational and acquisition structure. The United Kingdom does not have an independent military branch dedicated to space operations.
When Raymond took the helm of the new service in December, he tasked himself with enhancing the military’s competitive edge. Collaboration and cooperation with allies are key to that effort, he noted.
“The United States does not go to war alone and I could not imagine a better friend and ally than the Royal Air Force,” he said.
Western nations have grown increasingly concerned about Chinese and Russian anti-satellites weapons. The United Kingdom was the first international partner to join the United States in a coalition to bolster space defenses against key competitors known as Operation Olympic Defender, he said. Olympic Defender previously resided under U.S. Strategic Command but transferred to U.S. Space Command last summer.
“Through Operation Olympic Defender, we are optimizing space operations, improving mission assurance, enhancing resilience and synchronizing U.S. efforts and capabilities with … our closest allies so that we can deter hostile acts in space and protect vital national capabilities,” Raymond said.
The United Kingdom also has a major presence within the U.S.-based Combined Space Operations Center, which executes the operational command-and-control of space capabilities. The deputy director of the organization is Royal Air Force Group Captain Darren Whiteley.
Whiteley “was the first coalition partner to sign an order under Olympic Defender tasking subordinate space units,” Raymond said.
At the tactical level, U.K. operators work alongside U.S. and Canadian colleagues at the 18th Space Control Squadron to provide foundational space domain awareness and ensure freedom of action in that domain, he said.
Moving forward, the United States is committed to advancing its space capabilities alongside its transatlantic ally, Raymond said. One area of increased collaboration includes the U.K.'s Artemis program. Under the effort — which includes a team of U.K. and U.S. defense and space industry personnel — the United Kingdom is developing small, low-orbiting satellites that can be deployed more cost-effectively than legacy platforms.
“We remain interested in supporting the U.K. on Artemis,” Raymond said.
“Our Space Force and our Air Force teams are currently evaluating where we
can best leverage this capability across the space enterprise.”