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Conference Final Report: The Requirements of a Sovereign Defence Space Capability - Dr Robbin Laird

Dr Robbin Laird, Conference: The Requirements of a Sovereign Defence Space Capability 1 December 2021: A Williams Foundation Special Report, 8 January 2022

In this report, the key themes and presentations at the December 2021,

Williams Foundation seminar on The Requirements of a Sovereign Defence Space Capability are highlighted. A number of interviews with participants are included.

Download the report here

Download PDF • 19.83MB


Recently, the Williams Foundation held its latest bi-annual seminar, this one focused on the way ahead for the Australian space enterprise. Since 2014, the Williams Foundation has held bi-annual seminars on the transformation of the ADF as it embraced fifth generation warfare and working joint force integration.

Since 2018, the focus has been increasingly with regard to how to extend the reach of the ADF given the changing nature of the challenges facing Australia in the Indo-Pacific region. The discussions really began with a 2018 seminar which focused on the importance of long-range strike and was followed by seminars which focused on ways to enhance Australian resilience and sovereign capabilities.

The first seminar of 2021 focused on next generation autonomous systems, and the 1 December 2021, seminar on where autonomous systems, namely satellites, have been a regular feature for both military and commercial purposes for many decades.

The Williams Foundation program announcing the seminar highlighted the purpose and focus of the seminar: The Requirements of a Sovereign Defence Space Capability

When the United States Air Force conceived and established the Space-based Global Positioning System in 1973 to enable more accurate military navigation, few would have imagined the impact it would have on modern society, the Western national security apparatus, and the Australian way of life. Fast forward to 2021, global economic security is now dependent on Space-based capabilities, and Defence must play an increasingly prominent role given the quantum of global trade which passes through the region, a third of which transits through the South China Sea.

There are now over 2,600 satellites in orbit and the Australian Defence Force has become increasingly dependent on a sophisticated blend of Space-related technologies which must now develop and accelerate to meet the demands of integrated multi-domain operations to counter new threats and new risks. These demands include resilient long-range communications, and greater levels of situational awareness with the ability to sense, track and identify targets in and from Space in all orbits.

On the supply side, current Space capacity is insufficient to meet these demands, and the need for a sovereign capability must be driven by a better understanding of the full spectrum of Space-related requirements across policy, process, infrastructure, and technology. The imperative to develop Space capability must consider the people and organisational aspects which leverage Australia’s relatively small but highly skilled population. It will require a national effort to leverage people, technology and Australia’s vast geographical area of interest and

highly favourable environmental conditions to conduct activities in and from Space.

Space is becoming increasingly congested and contested and likely to become a warfighting domain in future high intensity conflicts in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as an essential campaign enabler for Shape Deter and Respond missions and tasks. This will drive the need for increased survivability of Space-based systems and the ability to counter and deny competitors across the spectrum of conflict.

The e-book version can be found here:

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