Following in the footsteps of former President Trump’s new U.S. Space Force (USSF), the UK has created its own ‘Space Command.’ As part of this fledgling space warfighting effort, Air Commodore Paul Godfrey – a seasoned Typhoon fighter pilot – was recently appointed as its first chief.
And to quickly give the new Space Command real military space capabilities, it could soon be sending Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon jet fighters to the “edge of space” to practice destroying enemy satellites. Russia and China have already developed ground, air and sea-based Anti-Satellite (ASAT) missiles capable of destroying critical GPS and communications satellites, but Britain has been lagging.
As reported by the Express:
While the UK does not yet possess anti-satellite missiles, the US has had the technology since the 1980s, when one was fired from a fighter jet to down an old weather satellite. Russia has now demonstrated two types of space weapons: direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles which launch from the ground, and a space-based system said last year to have been fired from another satellite. Last year the Pentagon confirmed China already has ground-based missiles that can hit satellites moving in “low Earth orbit.”
In response, RAF sources say it would be “folly not to explore fully the capabilities required for satellite denial.” The Express continued by explaining how the UK intends to do it:
[British] “Top Gun” fighter pilots have been selected for training missions aimed at combating Chinese and Russian military and communication satellites in times of war. Simulated exercises are set to get under way before flying training exercises take place. Training flights without missiles would see Typhoon pilots fly to 40,000ft before embarking on a 20,000ft vertical climb. During a real-life attack they would target enemy satellites and release anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles at 60,000ft, before returning.
What ASAT missiles would the British use? For now, they would likely be American. The US’s SM-3 anti-satellite missiles can be mounted under the wings of RAF Typhoons, but they would require added training.
As reported by the Express, Justin Bronk, at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank in London, said: “But even if the UK acquired SM-3s, because of their length they would have to be fitted under the wings of Typhoons which may cause an issue with weight distribution.”
Mr Bronk added: “It’s not an insurmountable problem but it certainly makes sense to use Typhoon simulators – where Typhoons fly up to 40,000ft before pulling up to get a zoom climb to 60,000ft – in order to clear the asymmetry issues.”
However, he continued: “The benefits of having ASAT based on a ship or plane is that you can fire it from wherever you want. “It doesn’t take a Typhoon long to reach the equator.”