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Defence Notes

Australia reaches for the stars with new space division

28th May 2021 - 03:05 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Christchurch


The RAAF will host a new Defence Space Division. (ADF)

The RAAF will be the lead agency for Australia's new dedicated space division.

The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) announced in May 2021 that it will set up a Space Division headquarters within a year.

The Defence Space Division — rather than a full US-style space force — will be established in early 2022. It will incorporate personnel from all three Australian Defence Force (ADF) services.

Air Mshl Mel Hupfeld, Chief of Air Force, commented: 'We use space daily for understanding the weather, navigating, access to geospatial information and sharing information across Australia or across the world. Defence is delivering capabilities including space domain awareness, sovereign-controlled satellite communications and space-based Earth observation and navigation.'

Hupfield, who is the space domain lead, is conducting a review to improve how space capabilities are managed, acquired and operated.

He added: 'The government has committed to significantly increasing investment in Defence’s space capabilities by investing around A$7 billion [$5.4 billion] this decade to ensure our access to space, space services and geospatial information. Defence will need capabilities that directly contribute to outcomes in space as a contested domain. However, this does not mean that Defence encourages the militarisation of space. All space operations are conducted consistent with international and domestic legal obligations.'

AVM Cath Roberts has already been appointed as commander of the Defence Space Division. 

The Department of Defence created an Information Warfare Division (IWD) on 1 July 2017. At the time, Dan Tehan, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Cyber Security, said: 'The division will have the responsibility for military cyber operations, military intelligence, joint electronic warfare, information operations and our military’s space operations.'

Clearly, the space operations domain has now sufficiently risen in importance to warrant its own division.

Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper allocated up to A$400 million ($306 million) to enhance the cyber capabilities of the ADF. The unit reportedly began with 100 personnel, and it is expected to grow to some 900 within a decade.

Then, on 29 January 2018, the ADF established Defence Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Cyber Command. The unit, which includes the Joint Cyber Unit, works alongside civilian teams from the Australian Signals Directorate.

Air Chf Mshl Mark Binskin, the then Chief of Defence Force, said at the time: 'The new command arrangements will support a more coherent military workforce, and create an organisational structure to support the future growth of our military cyber workforce, which was outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper.'

SIGINT and Cyber Command falls under the Chief of Joint Capabilities of the IWD.

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