Air Commodore Paul Godfrey to lead UK’s new Space Command

By on 05/02/2021 | Updated on 05/02/2021
Air Commodore Paul Godfrey OBE will lead the UK's new Space command. Credit: the RAF

Air Commodore Paul Godfrey OBE from the Royal Air Force (RAF) will become the first leader of the UK’s new Space Command.

The new organisation – due to be formed later this year amid international competition to assert interests in space – was originally announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November 2020.

Space Command will draw on staff from the UK’s air force, army and navy, alongside civil servants and experts from the private sector, according to the RAF’s release. It will be based at an existing RAF base in High Wycombe, north west of London, and is expected to be operational by early summer.

Godfrey, a former fighter pilot and station commander who joined the RAF in 1991, will be promoted to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal.

Reacting to his appointment, Godfrey said: “I am incredibly honoured to be selected to lead the new joint Space Command. Having just returned from a role embedded with the United States military, where I was privileged to be able to plan and direct air and space power in support of coalition operations, I have seen first-hand how critical the Space domain is and how it underpins not only military operations, but broader every day activities. 

“As it becomes ever more congested and contested, it is critical that the UK is integrated in its approach to Space and the formation of this Command will provide a key focal point for this complex operating environment.”

General Sir Patrick Sanders, commander of Strategic Command, said: “The benefits we derive from Space are vital to our economy, our way of life and to our national security… I look forward to Strategic Command, working very closely with the new Space Command to deliver the integration of these capabilities to our Armed Forces as they operate in the air, on the land, at sea and in cyberspace.”

Expanding capabilities

Space Command will have three main functions: space operations; space workforce generation; and space capability. One of its focuses will be on satellites, which are increasingly vital for military command and control systems, cyber capabilities, communications, and surveillance and reconnaissance.

It will be coordinated with other branches of the UK defence network via Strategic Command, the UK’s defence integrator based in the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which in turn will work with the UK’s strategic partners and allies to maintain defences.

The new organisation was announced by Boris Johnson in the House of Commons on 19 November 2020 as a part of an update statement on the Ministry of Defence Integrated Review.

International interest

The appointment comes as the Biden administration voiced its support for Space Force, which was launched as an independent branch of the US military under the Trump administration in 2019.

Biden’s press spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters this week that Space Force, an independent entity within the US Department of the Air Force, has “the full support of the Biden administration and we are not revisiting the decision to establish the Space Force”.

The statement of support came in response to concerns after Psaki had appeared to respond dismissively to an earlier question about Space Force. 

But, in a change of tone the following day, she said: “The desire for the Department of Defense to focus greater attention and resources on the growing security challenges in space has long been a bipartisan issue, informed by numerous independent commissions and studies conducted across multiple administrations, and thousands of men and women proudly serve in the Space Force.”

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