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The space domain and UK security

In a recent interview with DSEI Senior Defence Advisor, Air Vice-Marshal (ret’d) Gary Waterfall, Air Vice Marshal Harv Smyth, Head of the UK Space Directorate, highlighted the vital role of the space domain for UK security.

Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, CB, OBE, DFC is a Northern Irish Royal Air Force officer. From July 2018, he served as Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group. In February 2020, he took up the new post of Director Space, UK, in the Ministry of Defence.

Smyth’s new post covers up to 25 civilians and military personnel involved in finance, policy and capabilities which aim to support the new space directorate in the Ministry of Defence's Main Building. No. 23 Squadron RAF had been reformed, as a space squadron, "responsible for day-to-day space command-and-control" and the remote control and manoeuvring of satellites. Smyth was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 2020 Birthday Honours.

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AVM Smyth joined DSEI Senior Defence Advisor, Air Vice-Marshal (ret’d) Gary Waterfall in December for an all-round conversation on the importance of the space domain for national security, his future priorities and the role of industry in the UK space race.

He stressed that space as a domain “is becoming more contested and congested” and laid out his priorities moving forward. These include creating a National Space Strategy which has both civil and military dimensions, turning proposals into deliverables and setting up Space Command in the first half of 2021.

AVM Smyth also referred to the Defence Space Enterprise portfolio, a series of forward-thinking R&D programmes, to be launched within the next 18 months, which set up the foundation for the future.

Pointing out that the Outer Space Treaty 1967 is focused mostly on nuclear weapons, he also touched upon the need to set norms and rules and create “new UN resolutions with regards to life in space”.

Industry is also set to play a key role in supporting the UK’s space race. To this end, AVM Smyth suggested that businesses should identify potential areas for international cooperation and carefully assess their access to key commercial markets based on the nation’s need for sovereign capabilities.

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