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Space Command formally exits the RAAF

Australia’s military Space Command has now formally shifted from operating within the Air Force to being within the ADF’s Joint Capabilities Group.

The move — revealed earlier this year as part of the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) into the military — is part of a broader shake-up that will see the newly formed No. 1 Space Surveillance Unit (1SSU) assume operation of Defence’s space domain awareness capabilities.

The Labor federal government hopes the combined changes will “increase the importance” of Space Command and allow it to integrate better with other military branches.

Unlike RAAF, JCG supports Defence by providing “enabling capabilities”, including logistics support, health services, and military education and training.


The Chief of Joint Capabilities, Lieutenant General John Frewen, said, “Space is a critical element of the integrated force for every ADF operation, deployed and at home — from satellite communications, precision-guided weapons, situational awareness in the battlespace, and position, navigation and timing.

“Our top priority is building and sustaining a trained Defence space workforce with defined career pathways. As our newest domains, the space and cyber domains have similar workforce challenges with new and unique career pathways.

This is our opportunity to develop strong, resilient and fit-for-purpose workforces in these emerging domains.”

The DSR was described as the biggest shake-up in Australia’s defence policy in decades and will result in $19 billion being spent to implement its immediate recommendations.


However, despite increasing space’s importance, it ruled out turning Space Command into a US-style Space Force equal to the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

The report — penned by former defence minister Stephen Smith and former defence chief Sir Angus Houston — also said a method should be established for building and sustaining a trained Defence space workforce, including a defined career path.

Meanwhile, in a new development, 1SSU — established at RAAF Base Edinburgh in January — has taken over the C-Band Radar and Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) as its critical operational capabilities, with initial support from No. 1 Remote Sensor Unit (1RSU).

Defence Space Commander Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts said as the first dedicated Joint Space Unit, 1SSU would provide space domain awareness effects and missile warning in support of integrated and coalition forces.

“Space domain awareness is critical for supporting Australia’s national security interests, as it allows us to monitor activities in space, detect and respond to potential threats, and protect our satellites in space,” AVM Roberts said.

The Commanding Officer of 1SSU, Wing Commander Richard Charles, said, “Since our establishment, 1SSU has been working collaboratively with 1RSU to ensure a seamless transfer of the Defence space surveillance capabilities.

Located in Exmouth, Western Australia, the C-Band Radar and SST are joint initiatives of the US Space Force and the ADF.

“The SST is an electro-optical sensor that surveys the night skies, detecting and cataloguing objects in geosynchronous orbit more than 30,000 kilometres above the Earth, where many essential telecommunication and military satellites reside,” WGCDR Charles said.

“Freedom of action in space is essential to Australia’s prosperity and security. The establishment of 1SSU ensures Defence continues to build capacity and deliver space capability alongside our international partners and allies.”

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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