Talks under way to have US ‘deep space radar’ in Britain

RAF Fylingdales, where the US already operates an early warning system to detect ballistic missiles in space (PA Archive)
11:31am, Sat 17 Jul 2021
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Britain is in talks with the US over siting a powerful new radar system in the UK to track objects in deep space.

The Ministry of Defence said the discussions with the Americans had been “positive” with a number of locations under consideration.

The US Space Force is developing a global system to monitor objects up to 22,000 miles from Earth amid concerns about a new arms race developing space.

Both the US and the UK have warned that China and Russia are developing weapons that could be used to take out a satellite.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Mike Wigston (PA Wire)

The head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Wigston, who is in the US for talks with the Americans, said the British were “very interested” in the project.

“It will enable us to get a good picture of what is going on and if necessary be ready to protect our critical interests in space,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“We see activity by countries like China and Russia which of course is of concern. It is reckless activity, deploying and testing of systems that look like weapons in space.

“So any system like the radar we are talking about which gives us a better picture of what is going on is incredibly important to us.”

This new radar capability has the potential to make space safer and more secure

In order to get a “full picture” of what is happening, the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability (DARC) will require three radar stations around the globe with possible sites in the UK, US and Australia.

The stations, covering around one square kilometre, would host an array of large radar dishes, known as parabolic antenna, each 15 metres in diameter.

Air Chief Marshal Wigston said there were a number of potential British sites under consideration and that no final decisions had been made.

The US already operates an early warning system to detect ballistic missiles in space, which includes a facility at RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire.

However that can only detect objects up to 12,000 miles away while DARC would look much further into space.

“These radars are going to have to be powerful enough to look out at what is happening 22,000 miles away where the really important geostationary Earth satellites sit,” Air Chief Marshal Wigston said.

In a statement, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “This new radar capability has the potential to make space safer and more secure, helping to protect our satellite system by tracking and monitoring objects.

“We are exploring our potential partnership with the USA on DARC and discussions so far have been positive.”

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