AUKUS To Build DARC: Three Deep Space Radar Systems

6th Dec 2023
AUKUS To Build DARC: Three Deep Space Radar Systems

The UK, US, and Australia have announced their intention to build three deep space radar systems called DARC. In the UK specifically, their radar will be built at the Cawdor Barracks, in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and is poised to create 100 more jobs as a result. The remaining radars will be placed strategically in each AUKUS nation to ensure evolving warfare techniques can be adapted to. 

Israel recently faced the first space battle in history after they shot down a projectile that flew outside the Earth’s atmosphere. With that in mind, the AUKUS partnership is aiming to increase their security “to better detect, track and identify objects in deep space,” the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. 

Grant Shapps, Defence Secretary for the UK, said in a statement: “As the world becomes more contested and the danger of space warfare increases, the UK and our allies must ensure we have the advanced capabilities we need to keep our nations’ safe.” 

AUKUS’ Three Radar Systems

Labelled the Deep Space Advanced Radar Capability programme, or DARC, the radar systems will augment AUKUS’ current deep space monitoring abilities. In September 2023, the AUKUS defence Secretaries announced their commitment to DARC by inking an Memorandum of Understanding. Once operational, the MoD said the radars will be able to precisely pinpoint objects within a 22,000 mile radius of Earth. DARC “will [also] provide 24/7, all-weather capabilities,” the MoD added.

The UK is aiming to have their Welsh radar operational in the next decade, subject to planning permission approval and an environment assessment. More imminently, Australia is already constructing their DARC radar with a projected completion date of 2026. The MoD said all DARC systems should be up and running within 10-years. But currently, the US has not confirmed where their DARC radar will be located and when it will be constructed. 

What DARC Will Aim To Achieve  

DARC will incorporate a network of “ground-based radars” in each AUKUS nation, and will monitor “space-traffic” and “global surveillance”. The MoD said DARC’s capabilities will include “detecting potential threats to defence or civilian space systems”. In addition, DARC will cover all land, air, and maritime assets, as well as protecting Earth’s on-ground and in-space infrastructure. 

Primarily, DARC will focus on defence, but it will also backup integral asset monitoring for communication and navigation systems. The MoD affirmed that DARC will have “higher sensitivity, better accuracy, increased capacity and more agile tracking”. Some of AUKUS’ current radar systems have weather and night visibility constraints, which DARC will aim to rectify.  

Who Are AUKUS?

AUKUS is a partnership agreement between Australia, the UK, and the US. It was struck to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific [region]”, the MoD said. Already, the deal has seen Australia commit to receiving UK built submarines. Under the current UK space defence strategy, Britain has committed to placing a strong focus on space domain awareness (SDA). Previously, The UK considered using radars for better SDA. However, DARC adds a more defensive layer for AUKUS’ security needs. 

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