Richard North thinks Britain should buy into US military satellites:
It was just over two years ago that we pick up a report on how president Bush had issued a decree changing US national disclosure policy, upgrading Australia to the highest rank of intelligence partner that the US has in the world.
This unprecedented move brought Australia’s status into line with Britain, hitherto the only other country to have such a privileged relationship with the US, and vastly expanded the quantity and quality of US intelligence Australian agencies received.
Now, there is a indication of how that relationship is maturing and developing with an announcement recorded by Reuters (via Defence Talk) that Australia is considering whether to join the advanced US military WGS communications satellite network.
The news came originally from an executive of Boeing Co., who said that the Australian government was prepared to foot part of the bill for expanding the system of five satellites. The constellation is due to be fully operational by 2012 and, w With Australia helping to fund a sixth satellite in the system, it would get full access to the whole of the network, enhancing two-way wartime communications with the United States and increasing the system’s coverage and capacity world-wide.his makes an interesting contrast to Britain, which has gone it alone with the development of its Skynet 5 network of three satellites, a PFI deal fronted by Paradigm, a subsidiary of European aerospace company, EADS Astrium.
And, while the that deal was originally slated at £2.5 billion – with the contract running to 2018 – it has now increased to £3.6 billion after the MoD was “ripped off” to the tune of £822 million by Paradigm. The Australians, on the other hand, are looking only to a share of the less than £1 billion ($1.8 billion) cost of a sixth satellite.
Much has been made of the weakening of the special relationship on this blog and the (partial) realignment of British defence policy with Europe, and the fact that Britain went it alone, but with a European commercial partner, on the Skynet project cannot be construed as strengthening it.
However, such independence – as opposed to Blair’s “poodle” stance with president Bush – is often seen as a sign of strength. One does wonder though. We end up with a less capable system, costing more and running into obsolescence earlier, and lose the advantages of a closer partnership with the greatest military power on earth.
The problem with this, of course, is that Britain would, for the lifetime of the satellite, be dependent on the the goodwill of the USA, who could at any time cut our connection to it if we dared to have any foreign policies that the USA didn’t like. Given that the whole point of national defence is to ensure Britain’s independence — i.e. to ensure that foreigners can’t push us around — this would not be a good use of money.
But Richard North wants foreigners to be able to push us around — provided those foreigners are the US government. He’d be happy for Gordon Brown (and his successors) to grovel before George Bush (and his successors). Perhaps North should start his own political party, pushing for this policy — he could call it the United Kingdom Dependence Party.
(For those who don’t get the joke, Richard North is a former member of UKIP who writes a blog called “EU Referendum” which is virulently opposed to the EU, regarding it as an intrusion on Britain’s independence.)