‘We don’t want to weaponise space’: British military chiefs criticise China and Russia for ‘reckless’ behaviour
Two military chiefs have criticised China and Russia for “reckless” behaviour in space, such as using weapons to destroy satellites, leaving a trail of dangerous debris orbiting Earth.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, the head of the Royal Air Force, and General Sir Patrick Sanders, commander of Strategic Command, also for the first time left open the possibility that the UK could develop its own weapons to defend assets in space.
“I am not ruling out what we might do in the future, but we don’t want to weaponise space,” General Sanders told Sky News.
“We don’t want it to become a place where – to use your language – there is conflict or even war in space. We want to make sure it is a common good for all because we all derive so much benefit from it.”
The two commanders were speaking at the official opening of the UK Space Command, which will take charge of all military work involving space – now considered a domain of operations alongside land, sea, air, and cyberspace.
Air Chief Marshal Wigston said: “When diplomacy has run its course and we find ourselves in a global conflict, it might not start in space but I am in no doubt it will move very quickly to space and it will most likely be won or lost in space.”
The new organisation, headquartered at RAF High Wycombe, will bolster the UK’s ability to track threats in space, from space junk to deliberate attacks in coordination with key allies such as the US, Australia and France.
The air chief described Russia and China’s activities in space as “reckless”.
Offering an example, he said a few years ago, Beijing deliberately destroyed a satellite with an anti-satellite weapon, creating debris that is still circulating Earth today.
“Those are lumps of space junk which are travelling at thousands of kilometres an hour,” he said.
“If they hit the International Space Station or one of our satellites that we depend on in our day-to-day lives that would have or could have a disastrous effect on the movement of medical equipment, our transport networks, our power networks.”
Describing the threat further, he said: “Right now we see countries like Russia and China testing and demonstrating anti-satellite weapons – satellites with all the characteristics of a weapon deployed in space.
“We see them rehearsing, manoeuvring, which frankly have only one purpose which is to destroy satellites, so that is a real concern to us and that’s behaviour that we would want the international community to call out.”
Rather than launch space weapons back in their direction, the main strategy the UK is pursuing to deter this kind of activity is to develop a new set of international rules to govern behaviour in space, the two officers said.
The UK will also use its radars and satellites, which will fall under the control of Space Command, to improve visibility of what threats are out there.
However, the commanders indicated that developing physical capabilities to defend assets in space at some future point had not been ruled out.
“I am open minded about all aspects of what we might do in the future and there are all sorts of things we might potentially do,” Air Chief Marshal Wigston said.
“But right now our focus is on turning on the lights in space and making sure we understand what is going on.”
The number of personnel across the RAF, Army and Royal Navy assigned to UK Space Command is starting in the tens to hundreds.
But the plan is to expand the force into the thousands.
The first eight “Space Operator” badges were handed out to individuals at the opening ceremony.
None of the people involved in Space Command actually fly into space. Instead they work from Earth monitoring things like military satellites and space radar systems.
Somalia truck bombing kills 15 people and wounds 40 others
A bombing at a checkpoint in Somalia has killed at least 15 people and wounded 40 others, authorities have said.
Images on social media showed a damaged truck cab on fire and black smoke billowing from the scene in the central city of Beledweyne.
No one has immediately claimed responsibility, including Al Shabaab, which often carries out attacks and controls parts of Somalia.
Police officer Ahmed Aden said the dead included five police officers who fired on the truck in a failed attempt to stop it from ramming into the nearby checkpoint.
Shops nearby were reduced to rubble, with reports of people missing beneath the debris.
It was a truck loaded with explosive devices that forcefully passed through the government-manned checkpoint, and a pick-up vehicle belonging to security personnel was chasing it when it exploded,” said witness Abdikadir Arba, who said he was about 200 metres away and was one of the first responders.
Abdifatah Mohamed Yusuf, director-general of the Hirshabelle Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management, confirmed the deaths.
“Twenty of the wounded have been admitted to Beledweyne hospitals, while another 20 are in critical condition, prompting a request for their airlift to Mogadishu for advanced medical treatment,” he said.
Hirshabelle is a state that includes Beledweyne. It has been the centre of the Somali government’s latest military offensive against extremists from Al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab has been battling Somalia’s central government for more than a decade, aiming to establish its rule based on strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
Fugitive on run for more than 30 years laughs as he’s finally caught
A fugitive convicted of attempted murder who evaded police for more than 30 years has been caught.
Greg Lawson, who had been on the run for 32 years, laughed and asked officers “how are you doing?” as he was handcuffed in Huatulco, Mexico.
Lawson, 63, fled Louisiana, in the US, just before a jury found him guilty of shooting a man called Seth Garlington in 1991 – sparking an FBI manhunt in May that year.
In a video shared by FBI News Orelans on X, formerly known as Twitter, Lawson is seen wearing a short-sleeve shirt and camouflage cap.
With police officers in escort, he patted someone on the shoulder while laughing, before another officer turned to handcuff him.
Douglas Williams Jr, the agent in charge of FBI New Orleans, said the capture would not have been possible without the help of authorities in Mexico.
“We want to thank our partners and the public in this case, who never gave up hope that justice could be served for Mr Lawson’s victim,” he said.
“There is no doubt that Mr Lawson might still be in the wind if our partners in Mexico had not been willing to deal with this so swiftly.”
The FBI said they had always suspected Lawson was hiding out in Mexico, but a “tip” they received earlier this month appeared to confirm their theory.
He was arrested on Tuesday, 19 September, and was taken into custody back in Louisiana.
According to a local Louisiana news channel, KTBS, Lawson had a “fistfight” with Mr Garlington in a car park at a petrol station.
Court documents, they added, claim Lawson forced Mr Garlington’s vehicle off the motorway, with Lawson then firing shots.
When the jury came back from deliberation to confirm the guilty verdict, Lawson had already run away.
The FBI had offered a $10,000 (£8,200) reward for his capture.
Sweden: Chunk of motorway collapses in landslide – leaving three in hospital
Three people have been taken to hospital after a large chunk of a motorway in Sweden collapsed in a landslide early on Saturday morning.
Several buildings were also damaged, including a Burger King restaurant.
The landslide has affected a total area of around 700 x 200 metres, which is roughly equivalent of 21 football pitches.
“The hardest hit parts of the landslide area measure around 150 x 100 metres,” the Gothenburg Rescue Services added in a statement.
“A number of people have been helped out of vehicles in the slide area with the help of fire personnel and a helicopter.”
Rescue services say further landslides cannot be ruled out.
Police say nobody is suspected of a crime, but an investigation has been launched into whether a construction site nearby caused the landslide.
There has also been heavy rainfall in the area over the past few days.
Swedish news agency TT reported several cars and one truck had fallen into cracks caused by the landslide, while rescue services told public broadcaster SVT all people have been helped out.
Specially trained dogs were on the scene to ensure no people had been overlooked among the debris.
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