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Australian space capabilities a major winner in Defence Strategy Update

Stephen Kuper

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ latest Defence Strategy Update and Force Structure Plan has revealed $270 billion in extra funding for Australias defence capabilities, with the space domain a major beneficiary.

Australian space capabilities a major winner in Defence Strategy Update
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Australia, like every other nation is increasingly dependent upon the space domain for communications, navigation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and scientific endeavours, however this position is being contested as the era of 'great power' competition is upon us. 

In response, as part of the long awaited 2020 Defence Strategy Update and the Force Structure Plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds have earmarked a record level of funding to ensure that Australia establishes and maintains a sovereign space capability well into the future. 

The Prime Minister said, "The government will significantly increase investment in defence space capabilities, a whole new theatre, including a network of satellites so we have an independent communications network and we're going to invest some $7 billion in those space capabilities over the coming decade.

"Working closely with industry and other government agencies, including the Australian Space Agency, headquartered in Adelaide, where I was there to open that agency not that long ago."

The Force Structure Plan articulates the growing role of collaboration between key partners, like the US, stating: "Defence is working closely with the United States and other Combined Space Operations Initiative partners, the Australian Space Agency and industry to transform the way the ADF operates in space, including in relation to satellite communications, space domain awareness, precision navigation and timing, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance."

This is reinforced by the Prime Minister, who added, "Working with key partners and allies, we will take advantage of Australia's unique geographical position to better contribute to collective space domain awareness and we will look to enhance the ADF's ability to counter emerging threats in the space domain and ensure our continued access to space-based intelligence and reconnaissance.."

The Commonwealth's 2020 Defence Strategy Update and the Force Structure Plans identify a number of key focuses for the future development of Australia's space capabilities, including: 

  • Space services - namely satellite communications, positioning, navigation and timing data: "The government’s plans include a rolling upgrade program to assure position, navigation and timing information in a contested environment."
  • Space control -  maximising Australia's geographic position to provide space situational awareness: "Defence currently hosts a United States C-Band Radar and Space Surveillance Telescope and will continue to build our space domain awareness capabilities with the United States and other key partners into the future. To ensure that we can take full advantage of the large volumes of information that will be developed, the government is also investing in growing the intelligence and supporting workforce."

The Prime Minister's statements were echoed by Minister Reynolds, who added, "Space is increasingly critical to the ADF’s warfighting effectiveness. Particularly for real-time communications, situational awareness and rapid information delivery.

"Defence is working closely with the United States, the Australian Space Agency and industry to advance its space capabilities. The government will invest $7 billion on space capabilities over the next decade.

"To increase our self-reliance and resilience, we will put new satellites into orbit as part of a sovereign controlled network. And we will develop Defence’s satellite imagery, data processing and analysis capabilities while expanding our geospatial intelligence workforce.

"To counter rapidly emerging space threats, we will invest in the Australian Defence Force’s space control capabilities – such as space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance."

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