Tripartite radar deal as space war risks increase

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia (AUKUS) are to develop a new deep space radar capability that will be able to identify threats from space amid fears that it will become a new theatre of war.

The Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) programme will provide 24/7, all-weather capabilities that will increase AUKUS nations’ ability to characterise objects deep in space up to 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometres) away from earth.

The three countries said DARC will see a global network of three ground-based radars to be jointly operated that will assist in critical space-traffic management and contribute to the global surveillance of satellites in deep space.

“The unique geographic positioning of the three nations means that DARC can provide global coverage, including detecting potential threats to defence or civilian space systems,” They said in a statement. “As the danger of space warfare increases, this landmark capability will benefit all three nations’ land, air, and maritime forces, as well as protecting critical infrastructure and benefitting our domestic construction and space industries.”

UK defence secretary, Grant Shapps said: “As the world becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases, the UK and our allies must ensure we have the advanced capabilities we need to keep our nations’ safe.

Today’s announcement of a global radar network (DARC), based across the UK, US and Australia will do just that. Empowering the UK to detect, track and identify objects in deep space.”

Cawdor Barracks in Pembrokeshire Wales has been identified as the UK’s preferred site for DARC. The final siting decision is conditional on the results of the ongoing comprehensive MOD-funded Environmental Impact Assessment and subsequent Town Planning application.

Cawdor Barracks is currently the home to a British Army Signals Regiment which is due to relocate from 2028. Retention of the Base by the MOD for DARC is likely to boost the local Pembrokeshire economy, creating employment during the construction phase and providing up to 100 longer-term jobs.

The trio said alongside DARC’s defence benefits, it also has the capability to monitor and protect the essential services that rely on satellites in space, including everyday aspects of life such as communications and navigation.

“This will play a crucial role in AUKUS’ ability to preserve peace and deter conflict in the Indo-Pacific and the rest of the world,” it added. “These new radar systems have higher sensitivity, better accuracy, increased capacity, and more agile tracking than current radars and optical systems tracking objects in deep space orbit. This will see greater global monitoring provided to inform UK defence operations, bypassing the current inclement weather and daylight limitations of some current capabilities.”

The first DARC radar site, which is being constructed in Australia, is expected to be operational in 2026, with all three sites operational by the end of the decade.

Australia’s deputy prime minister, the Richard Marles (pic) said: “Australia faces the most challenging set of strategic circumstances since the end of the Second World War. Our region is seeing growing competition across multiple levels.

“Australia’s interests in space are not bound by geography. Strengthening Australia’s defence capabilities in the space domain and working with our partners is a prudent response to our changing strategic environment.

“The installation of a Deep-space Advanced Radar Capability site demonstrates the Albanese Government’s commitment to lifting our capacity and rapidly translating disruptive new technologies into Australian Defence Force capability, deepening our strong AUKUS partnership.

“This investment harnesses technological advances to maintain a leading edge in Australia’s capability and contribute to strategic deterrence in the region. We will continue to work with our partners to build a region that is stable, peaceful and prosperous, and where sovereignty, including space sovereignty, is respected.”

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