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UK Defense Committee Calls For Scrutiny On The Eutelsat/OneWeb Deal

 |  October 20, 2022

Eutelsat and OneWeb’s planned merger requires the “strictest possible scrutiny,” a cross-party group of British government officials said in a report warning the U.K has become a “third-rank” power in space post-Brexit.

Combining UK-based OneWeb with France’s Eutelsat poses “serious questions about the handing over of critical technology to foreign powers and the need for sovereignty,” said Tobias Ellwood, chair of the UK’s Defence Select Committee.

In a report published Oct. 19 for the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the committee called for a thorough review of the deal under the country’s National Security and Investment Act.

The committee also called for creating a high-level government post to provide clear centralized “direction and accountability” for the UK’s civil and defense ambitions in space.

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Their report took aim at an “unacceptable” amount of progress in developing an independent satellite navigation system almost four years after the country left Europe’s Galileo program.

One option under consideration is to add position, navigation and timing (PNT) capabilities to OneWeb’s second-generation constellation, which the operator expects to enter service in 2028.

However, despite spending tens of millions of dollars on exploring options over the last several years, Ellwood said the U.K. is no closer to developing a replacement PNT network.

The lack of progress means the country risks “falling further behind both our peers and our adversaries,” Ellwood said in a statement.

He added: “Over this inquiry we heard that the UK is, at best, a third-rank space power, lagging behind Italy. “And while the Government has recognised there is work to do, the Whitehall machine is not moving fast enough.”