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2 Oct, 2022 16:53

UK military chief issues space war warning

Admiral Tony Radakin claimed Russia could attack the West’s satellites
AFP / Russian Space Agency Roscosmos

Moscow could use space-based weaponry to target Western infrastructure, the UK's Chief of the Defence Staff Admiral Tony Radakin told the Telegraph on Friday.

Radakin, who took up his post last year, sees Russia as a long-term threat to Britain.

Russia “has capabilities in space,” Radakin said. “We saw an example of that at the tail end of last year, when Russia exploded an object in space which created immense debris. Russia has nuclear capabilities, Russia has underwater capabilities.”

Radakin was referring to Russia’s test last year of an anti-satellite missile, which saw a ground-launched missile take out an old Soviet reconnaissance satellite. The US accused Russia of “weaponizing space” and creating a cloud of debris, although the US tested its own anti-satellite missiles with similar results over a decade ago. India and China have also trialed such weapons.

The admirals’ mention of Russia’s “underwater capabilities” came after a series of explosions crippled the Russia-Germany Nord Stream gas pipelines last week. While some in the West have blamed Russia for targeting its own infrastructure, Moscow has called these accusations “stupid,” with President Vladimir Putin blaming the attack on “the Anglo-Saxons,” a Russian colloquialism for the US-UK transatlantic alliance.

Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute think tank, told The Telegraph that he could also envision a Russian attack on satellite systems, which could cripple the West’s communications infrastructure.

“Russia could also attack the GPS systems which play a key role, both military and civilian, throughout the world,” he said. “There could be some disruption to civilian services, such as sat-nav systems used in most of our phones and cars.”

Such a move, Radakin said, would trigger a response from NATO, but one likely short of direct military intervention.

Russia has given no indication that it intends to fight the West in space. However, Radakin has given similar warnings before. Russia has “cyber capabilities, it’s got space capabilities, and it’s got particular programmes under water so it can threaten the underwater cables that allow the world’s information to transit around the whole globe,” he declared in July.

Radakin’s warnings, both in July and on Friday, were accompanied with calls for the UK to increase its military spending.