back to article RAF Air Command to take on UK military space ops

The Royal Air Force (RAF) is to take on command and control of UK military space operations, including a possible UK-based alternative to the EU's Galileo satellite constellation. The Defence Space Strategy (DSS), which remains somewhat light on detail until it is published in full over the summer, will bump numbers working in …

  1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Space commandos - should be the Navy in charge. Spaceships are like submarines - small enclosed space etc.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Been reading the Looking Glass series from Travis Taylor by any chance?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Spaceships are like submarines - small enclosed space etc."

      Aircraft are large, unenclosed spaces?

      1. Jim Mitchell

        @Doctor Syntax

        "Aircraft are large, unenclosed spaces?"

        You can survive your airplane becoming (semi-)unenclosed, try that in a submarine. Result does depend on pilot quality and luck, but it is possible...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Trying to use survivability of naval/air crew in the event of accidents as a proxy for determining which service should take command of space ops is a little strange. Especially as the idea that the UK would or should have a manned space programme is beyond laughable.

          1. handleoclast

            Trying to use survivability of naval/air crew in the event of accidents as a proxy for determining which service should take command of space ops is a little strange.

            Indeed. The deciding factors are whether or not you live aboard the vessel for extended periods of time, and degree of autonomy of the vessel commander. The second of those is an anachronism based on the fact that, prior to the invention of radio, ships at sea would be out of contact for long periods of time and therefore had to make local decisions on matters which, in other branches, would be passed up the chain of command.

            Once we have travel to other stellar systems, a Navy model will be required (unless we also invented FTL radio). At the moment, the Air Force model should suffice.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              "Indeed. The deciding factors are whether or not you live aboard the vessel for extended periods of time, and degree of autonomy of the vessel commander."

              The odds of any UK armed services having any form of crewed space going vessel in the near future are so close to zero it's really not worth arguing about at this stage. The nearest we have is Reaction Engines and they are looking at unmanned only and may be some years away anyway.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Disagree. I'm fairly odd in the US Navy having served in three of the four communities: submarine, surface, and air. I was slated to go into the special operations community as engineering support when I was forced out on physical disability after the First Gulf War. Given a Mom that fed me as many Sci-Fi novels that I could eat, I've got at least a modicum of intelligence in who I want around me if the shit hits the fan in space. Forgot to mention, nuclear navy experience in reactor operation.

            I want the same people as serve in submarines around me. Everyone, not just an aircraft pilot, navigator, etc. is cross-trained to a fare-the-well just in case one person just happens to be standing there, not just with their thumb up their butt waiting for an expert.

            I don't see any of this happening though with a Ministry of Defense with a huge hole in their budget wondering how their going to use that taxpayer credit card. That's pretty damned bad since the Royal Military is considered by everyone I've ever met with experience with them likes the Hell out of working with them. My experience is with the Australian and Japanese Navies and they're pretty fantastic, too.

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge
      Alien

      Based on how many crew it used to take for the RN to keep a plane flying in a warzone, and the number of crew the RAF required to keep exactly the same type of aircraft flying in exactly the same warzone;

      Be afraid, be VERY afraid.

      600 crew is barely enough to get a pot of RAF tea going.

      Hoping they will change the name to "Space Group Command", and have someone called "O'Neil" in command of the lead team.

      Alien?? I think this guy rode past me on his bike last week.

    4. GrumpyKiwi

      Absolutely. The RAF couldn't find their own bums without a course correction supplied by the RN.

  2. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
    Alien

    Not really Dan Dare territory.

    More like Warren Ellis' "Ministry of Space" - It even has a suitable variation on the RAF Roundel for them to use.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Not really Dan Dare territory.

      Not so fast, Davy boy, you leapt in so quick you didn't give Arnie here a chance to speak. He was just about to volunteer, weren't you, Arn?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the Mekon, who, apart from being green, [tried many] grandiose schemes (all of which failed).

    Well, as the once famous song went, "It isn't easy, being green"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

    The sole rationale of a non-aligned GPS is to be able to operate it if the "owner" decided to put it offline for you.

    That sort-a makes sense for the "core" of Eu" which is regularly getting annoyed about USA ordering it about. The most recent example is: "You will not buy Russian gas, you will buy American gas. If you do not comply you will have tariffs applied on all your goods". Add to that the regular shakedowns for NATO money, the overall grumbling about the F35 shakedown programme, etc.

    I do not see the rationale of non-aligned GPS for UK which diligently holds the baboon's hand like enamoured teenagers should, buys American toys to the expense of its own industry and joins the cheerleading performances and cruise missile bukakes immediately when asked to.

    As far as the Space Missile command itself... Would that be financed also out of the 300 million by any chance? Curious minds want to know...

    1. monty75

      Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

      Because we're "taking back control". All logical thought has therefore been suspended.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

        Don't think about Brexit - think about Space!!!

        1. Empire of the Pussycat

          Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

          think about - brexit in spaaaaaaaaaaaace!!!

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

      Mmm, not that simple. Gas, is one of Russia's major foreign policy influencers. One of the reasons that Russia is putting in new pipelines is so they can bypass the Ukraine to their major customers and so can take further action in Ukraine (remember that country that Russia annexed the Crimera part of recently? Yeah, that one) without worrying about holes appearing in gas pipelines, leading to Russia collapsing economically since that's basically their only trade internationally.

      Since the completion of this pipeline is going to lead immediately to an attack on Ukraine in either economic or military terms, one need not be a genius to see why the USA would prefer to put the completion date back...?

      Further to that, the "shakedown" for NATO money is caused by the German military failing to spend the NATO target of 2% of GDP on it's forces. Everything is in theory supposed to be combat ready. Germany is spending 1.2% of GDP, largely on wages. This has led to a situation where their military which is supposed to be leading a deterent force in NATO's eastern countries is more likely to invite a strike to demonstrate how toothless they are.

      https://www.thelocal.de/20180215/germany-not-very-ready-to-take-over-natos-very-ready-task-force

      In addition, both their Airforce and Navy are well known to be basically inoperable (https://www.thelocal.de/20180502/german-luftwaffe-only-has-four-operation-ready-eurofighter-jets-report) which is why they are getting a lot of stick about being freeloaders from NATO, relying on other poorer countries to spend more on defence in both GDP and absolute terms.

      The rationale of Britains own GPS system would be like much like of Britains military equipment; to provide something unique and higher quality than anybody else has to be a more useful ally even if we are deploying smaller amounts of it. In our case, we'd probably be trying to sell access to the privilaged military system in it to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan in financial terms and more quietly to certain middle eastern kings/princes who are friendly towards Britain for political gains like a guarenteed steady supply of gas and good future relations.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

        One of the reasons that Russia is putting in new pipelines is so they can bypass the Ukraine to their major customers and so can take further action in Ukraine

        Correct. You just missed the REAL further action in Ukraine.

        This is about money. Ukraine cumulative debt to Russia for gas supplies alone is in excess of 30Bn which Ukraine is refusing to pay (*). If you add other debts you are looking at >40Bn.

        As long as Ukraine holds the rest of Europe hostage it can afford not to pay it and it has been doing this for 20 years.

        As someone who has assets and relatives in one of the countries which suffers every time they use Europe as a hostage, my point of view is the same as the German, Bulgarian, Greek, Austrian and the rest of Europe. Enough is enough they can f*ck off. Similarly the US which is mandating the Ukraine's right to hold Eu as a hostage can f*ck off too.

        The international interconnects and bypasses will be built. In fact they are coming online at a rate of 2-3 per year since 2014-ish and this train has already left the station so Ukraine has to find another way to avoid paying its debts.

        (*)Most of it is from the period when Gasprom gave them 60%+ discount for transiting gas by the way - before the Eu agreed with Gasprom the removal of the tiered pricing upon Eu insistence.

    3. Mike Richards

      Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

      Not just gas - look at America's new sanctions on Iran imposed because Tehran was sticking to an international treaty. They have the power to cripple European countries who continue to trade with Iran even though their governments have no problems with the nuclear treaty.

      Actions like that strengthen the voices of those who would seek to weak ties with America, make new alliances with other, less democratic, countries, and who want their own shiny satellite programmes.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

        make new alliances with other, less democratic,

        Excuse me for being blunt, the key factor in an alliance, treaty or any relationship between countries is "will the other guy renege on the deal". Is the other guy democratic or not is an important factor, but it is somewhat secondary.

        This is is especially the case for long term things like trading pacts or surprise, surprise Space Programs. The average time for a satellite to get from the drawing board to up there is quite often the better part of a decade.

        So the issue here is simply - can you rely on the other side to keep its side of the bargain for a decade or more.

        With America it is a definitive no. With Europe it is sort-a, but usually yes. With Russians, funnily enough, you can rely that they will stick to what has been agreed down to the exact letter (doubly so after Putin make "sticking to the bargain" a propaganda quintessentially Russian item).

        So where does that put UK and its "potential" space program by comparison?

        The current lot in charge of UK is trying to prove that Americans are the pinnacle of reliability and dependability. So any ideas that they can establish a partnership for a new "take back control" space program are frankly on the delusional side. Doubly so if it is of military value. And as far as doing it alone, I do not think that you can xerox those 300 million enough times for that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The EU doesn't think the UK will stick to any deal

          David Davis isn't a reliable narrator

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

      The UK decided to exit the Galileo programme.

      It is launching its own replacement because it needs all the help it can get figuring out which direction it's going in after that.

      1. Bliar003

        Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

        No it didn't. The Euro-peons are trying to claim you cannot be in the Galileo project and not be in the EU. Even though it's Europe, not the EU, the morons.

    5. Bliar003

      Re: Why would airstrip one need a different GPS

      Because the USA can't order anyone about much less the UK.

      No GPS is "aligned" you idiot, no operator has the ability to turn it off and somehow keep using it themselves.

      " joins the cheerleading performances and cruise missile bukakes immediately when asked to."

      You do realise the Brits are in charge and their former colony isn't right?

      "I do not see the rationale of non-aligned GPS for UK"

      It already has one...

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Jet Ace Logan was RAF

    I don't remember Dan Dare being in the RAF, he was just a British spaceman with his mate Digby.

    Here is Jet Ac Logan wearing RAF kit:-

    http://britishcomicart.blogspot.com.es/2010/07/jet-ace-logan.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: http://britishcomicart.blogspot.com.es/2010/07/jet-ace-logan.html

      That's all very well, but now we're never going to find out what happens next, are we?

    2. BoldMan

      Re: Jet Ace Logan was RAF

      There was also Captain Condor from the Lion comics, he was definitely British but not sure if he was in the RAF...

    3. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Diego Valor?

      he was a Commander, not a naval rank, so either Air Force or Army

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets join with the Aussies

    and when they withdraw from the Commonwealth and we find it was part of condition that it was funded by the commonwealth, we can start all over once again.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Lets join with the Aussies

      And when we withdraw from the Commonwealth because those filthy colonials have impinged on Her Glorious Majesty's IP rights by printing her face on their worthless money*, we find it was part of condition that it was funded by the commonwealth, we can start all over once again.

      FTFY

      *Makes about as much sense as leaving the EU

  7. Nick Kew Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I have a cunning plan

    RAF Positioning system.

    Mark a special reconnaissance plane with its accurate position. Then fly it directly over any target whose position you need to know more accurately than GPS can get you.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I have a cunning plan

      "RAF Positioning system."

      RAF PoS? :-)

  8. TRT Silver badge

    Are we going...

    down the route of Spitfires in space?

    1. Santa from Exeter

      Re: Are we going...

      Now *This* is a Spitfire in space - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrEQOj4ep8U

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Dan Dare! So we're all saved.

    1. ColonelDare

      At your service.

      Just awaiting final instructions before we embark....

  10. Dr_N Silver badge

    Funny that Dan Dare is cited by the media for this story

    Given that the MOD/Whitehall view harks back to a 50s vision of flying cars and rocket ships.

  11. PK

    Shouldn't that be RnAF ?

    ...for Royal no-Air Force?

    At least "per ardua ad astro" still applies though

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Shouldn't that be RnAF ?

      'Per Ardua ad Astra' FTFY.

      (AirForce brat)

  12. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    Snatched back

    The sites in the Falklands and Ascension Islands could well be snatched back by the UK if the EU does not share its space-based toys.

    Or pay an exorbitant amount of cash for? Just throwing the idea out there :)

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Snatched back

      Falklands will probably be turned over to Argentina to help seal that big beef/wheat trade deal. That's how this government thinks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Snatched back

        "Falklands will probably be turned over to Argentina to help seal that big beef/wheat trade deal"

        There is every indication that many of the Brexiters' sacred cows will have to be sacrificed to satisfy the negotiating demands of future non-EU trading partners.

        1. Sanguma

          Re: Snatched back

          There is every indication that many of the Brexiters' sacred cows will have to be sacrificed to satisfy the negotiating demands of future non-EU trading partners.

          No more roast beef? The Froggies will need to think up a new nickname, won't they, since rosbifs won't apply any longer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Snatched back

            "The Froggies will need to think up a new nickname, won't they"

            <<Les Mangeurs de la Soupe Populaire>>

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Snatched back

      "Or pay an exorbitant amount of cash for?"

      Perhaps £300M per week?

  13. steelpillow Silver badge
    Holmes

    Sigh

    Now that the opportunity for the UK to participate in some hypothetical European Defence Force has been totally lost, I can see little point in trying to wrest our F-35 super-jets from the (OMG!) potentially hostile control of GPS. I mean, that must be the least of the ways the Yanks could stuff the things if they so chose. Not that they need much help, from the sound of things...

    1. Old69

      Re: Sigh

      "I mean, that must be the least of the ways the Yanks could stuff the things if they so chose"

      Aren't some of the F-35 maintenance programmes mandated to Italy and Turkey?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Sigh

        "Aren't some of the F-35 maintenance programmes mandated to Italy and Turkey?"

        Yeah, gotta watch those import and export tariffs as the aircraft and/or engines are sent for service.

    2. Bliar003

      Re: Sigh

      You can't have hostile control of GPS. It's impossible for the US or anyone else in NATO to shutdown or disrupt GPS for everyone else and still allow their own forces to use it.

  14. Mike Richards

    'bears a distinct similarity to a number of UK politicians as well as being the architect of innumerable grandiose schemes (all of which failed).'

    innumerable grandiose schemes - the similarity with UK politicians just gets stronger.

  15. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Cheaper alternative

    We could get a space program a lot cheaper, better and quicker if we outsourced to India

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Cheaper alternative

      We could get a space program a lot cheaper, better and quicker if we outsourced to India

      Or supply crates of Beer and cover the expenses of the Vulture SPB team. Even cheaper

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheaper alternative

      I'm sure any UK Government development will be quickly outsourced to India. For reasons unconnected with the development teams, I doubt it will be cheaper, better or quicker.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Cheaper alternative

        Just spitballing here - but why not outsource the UK Government itself to India while we're at it?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Mekon had a cool hover-board long before Marty.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dan Dare on Radio Luxembourg was the first spin-off branding I remember.

    There was the multiple colour moulded plastic logo badge when you joined the "Dan Dare" club. Probably involved cryptography too. The classic "space communicator" was of the same era - a plastic version of two tin cans joined by string with the bonus of a whistle in the handle. A "space gun" launched a plastic projectile that was a spinning three bladed "helicopter" rotor. I remember the day in a park when the wind-up spring in mine broke the plastic mechanism of the gun.

    A small bottle of "Dan Dare Cherryade" was a rare treat as it was premium priced - probably @ 6d.

    I had The Eagle" comic and Christmas Annual hand-me downs from my spoilaffluent cousin - it cost 1/-. Most of my pals had to settle for sharing each others "Beano" and "Dandy" at 2d each.

  18. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Mega Beta AIMeta Data Space Mission Proposal for Immediate Application and AIRocket Launch

    Hi Richard,

    Is there a where with a virtual point of leading contact re COSMIC AId Delivery of an AlMighty Futures Project ....... with Almighty Future Programmes to Populate with Earth's Assets ....... to Create a Future See and Views Free of the Past .... with New Quantum Memory Installs without Conflict and Confusion, Bad Madness and Chronic Mayhem Permitted to Play?

    Who gets to choose which Programs Royal Air Force Air Command Controls?

    There is at least one El Reger would like a SMARTR AI Chat if Game Changer Choices, which Impinge upon Every Shared Master AI Pilot Control Centres, are so infrequent as to be thought rare .... :-) which they will be in any Vital NEUKlearer Air Space Command with Almighty Universal Control Leverage.

    Think Per Ardua ad SuperNovae for a Flavour of Destinations' Flight Paths.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Royal Space Command or British Space Command ?

    Would this be the first space service to serve a hereditary ruler (unless Kim Jong-un weaponises his missiles first) ?

    Our monarchy agreed to raise no standing army, but are permitted everything else (Navy, Air Force and Marines). Perhaps we should reconsider the reason for this?

    Currently non-nuclear/WMD space weapons are permitted.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_III_of_England#Revolution_settlement

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militarisation_of_space#Space_Preservation_Treaty

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why Not RSF?

    Get a jump on us in the US and everyone else by having a space service branch!

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Why Not RSF?

      Russia has been calling their icbm force space command for a few decades now.

  21. M7S

    If, as the title says, the RAF are to take on UK Military Space Ops...

    ...who was running it up until now?

    Torchwood?

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: If, as the title says, the RAF are to take on UK Military Space Ops...

      Pretty sure it was the RAF,.... but probably with some mid level policy wonks from the Home Office. IIRC it was 'JERAC' (ish, it's been a while) and was based at RAF High Wycombe?

      A chap I used to know who was in the surveillance business for the USA, and used to collaborate with them, and he was suitably vague about what he did,... hence my vagueness.

      1. Julz Bronze badge

        Re: If, as the title says, the RAF are to take on UK Military Space Ops...

        Was JARIC but it's name has now changed...

        1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: If, as the title says, the RAF are to take on UK Military Space Ops...

          ... and RAF Wyton, not Wycombe. Seems my memory has gone phonetic, and a bit fuzzy.

  22. Stephen Wilkinson

    Surely the space equivalent of Biggles is retired RAF Group Captain Timothy 'Tiger' Clinton who stared in W.E. Johns science fiction stories?

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Windows

      I remember those, vaguely

      they had them in my local library when I was young

  23. Sanguma

    Some people call me the Space Cowboy

    Just think: you could mandate that all politicians must have served in the lower echelons of the Space Service before entering politics.

    We all know they are Space Cadets: we may as well make it official.

  24. Philip Stott
    Alien

    How did I not notice that?

    The Mekon is totally William Hague!

  25. Floydian Slip
    Mushroom

    Early days

    It's early days but I did hear that new recruits are being given extensive training on how to point a pen and make "pew pew" noises in the hope that the enemy (terrestrial or alien) will be scared away by the threat we might have some real space weapons somewhere

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