INP0009

Written evidence submitted by Reaction Engines

  1. About Reaction Engines

 

1.1  Reaction Engines is a private UK technology company, pioneering space access and sustainable technologies as well as transforming high-speed flight.

 

1.2  For over 30 years, Reaction Engines has been at the forefront of engineering innovation, including developing SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), a revolutionary new class of aerospace propulsion, making space travel and high-speed flight (Hypersonic) more efficient and more accessible.

 

1.3  With a diverse talent pool of 200 people, Reaction Engines has developed a global reputation as a high-profile technology innovator with unique capability focused on disruptive thermal management technology. 

 

1.4  The technology at the heart of SABRE has also found additional utility in responding to the scientific and technical challenges posed by the Sustainability and Net Zero imperative.
 

  1. Executive Summary

 

2.1  Reaction Engines believes there are positive opportunities in the Indo-Pacific and the UK could benefit from closer defence co-operation relationships.

 

2.2  As the Indo-pacific tilt is gaining more traction across UK’s political, diplomatic, economic, and operational interests, we’d be keen to understand more clearly the likely influence of UK Government policy on the direction of travel and prospective opportunities, particularly as there seems to be a shift away from traditional international engagement, such as that with Europe.

 

2.3  Considering this, the UK should not only look to grow relationships in the Indo-Pacific region, but also look to refresh its defence and security relationships with European partners. Some of whom are also acting on their own ambitions to increase influence on the world stage.

 

2.4  Whilst looking toward the Indo-Pacific tilt, the region has similar ambitions and capability within the space and hypersonic domain that not only matches that of UK ambitions but is reflective of our work within Reaction Engines. With this in mind, the UK should consider how it will support businesses so that they can effectively collaborate and partner on capabilities, as well as considering and formalising G2G commercial mechanisms which can support UK based businesses.
 

  1. Why is the Indo-Pacific important to the UK? What are its political, diplomatic, economic, and operational interests in the region?

 

3.1  Broadly speaking, the Indo-Pacific Region is already recognised as a geo-political area of interest. We have seen this through the expansion of China, the resources and scale of Australia, particularly in the Space Defence domain, as well as the ambitions of several rapidly emerging and growing economies such as India.
 

3.2  Geography of the region also supports the importance of the economic and operational interests, particularly the gateway between the India and Pacific Ocean (including access to the United States coastline).

3.3  For the UK specifically, this sets the context for the importance and interest of the region and its economic potential when looking at a Global Britain in a post-Brexit world.

 

3.4  That said, the UK shouldn’t forget its important ties with our European allies and should take this opportunity of a renewed approach to international engagement and collaboration to also refresh its defence and security relationship with European partners.

 

3.5  Whilst looking at broader geopolitics, there are clear threats that the UK, and the world is faced with. As mentioned above, China has already poised itself as an aggressive nation state within the region, and today we can see the threat that Russia poses to our allies. In this context, the political importance of the Indo-Pacific is critical, so that as a global leader we can build partnerships to be able to respond to threats with agility and pace no matter where they are in the world.

 

3.6  The removal from accessible markets of the Russian Soyuz heavy lift vehicle poses the UK both a near and longer-term conundrum.  Heavy launch capacity will still be required to meet UK space aspirations, and will have to come from co-operation with US, ESA, or another entity. If the UK is to secure assured access to Space with the ability to create new slots at short notice (as will now be required for OneWeb), then a bilateral or multilateral relationship with a dependable partner such as one or more Indo-Pacific Agencies (e.g., Japan, Australia) may be a faster path offering opportunity for greater UK influence and support combating international threats.

 

  1. What progress has been made on the goals for UK Defence as part of the Indo-Pacific Tilt as set out in the Integrated Review and the Defence Command Paper?
     

4.1  Both the Defence Command Paper and Integrated Review had an ambitious approach to an Indo-Pacific tilt for defence cooperation and to further interoperability and burden sharing across the world.

 

4.2  Many of the commitments, particularly in the Defence Command Paper, focus on increasing Maritime presence in the region which we can’t comment on as that’s not our focus as a company. However, we have seen the UK ambitiously deepen relationships with nation states such as Australia, Japan, and India.

 

4.3  As a company with innovation at our core, we would like to play a part in supporting the UK Government in deeply engaging with the Indo-Pacific, specifically on science and technology collaboration as highlighted in the Integrated Review.

 

4.4  However, for this vision to come to fruition by 2030, the Government needs to greater engage with industry, particularly companies who are at the forefront of innovation to support them with direction and advocacy with international allies.

 

4.5  The Indo-Pacific tilt also had very little mention in the Defence Space Strategy, so further clarity on the Government’s position for international engagement in the space defence domain would also be welcome.

 

 

 

 

  1. How could the UK develop alliances with partners in the region, for example through Quad partnership?

 

5.1  As international threats become a global issue rather than a nation state issue, the Quad will become more strategically important, particularly as the four nation states represent the key geographically placed nations within the Indo-Pacific region that are likely to counter Chinese expansion.

 

5.2  Although the UK is not based in regions that are more likely to face Chinese geographical expansion, the UK would be subject to the economic, societal and environment consequences. It is worth noting that geographically speaking the UK is already in a position that could, and is, facing Russian expansion. The UK  holds good relationships with the Quad nations through other mechanisms such that taking part in the Quad formally seems like a logical partnership mechanism, particularly to support the European region as a global leader.
 

5.3  As previously mentioned, as the UK looks to build global relationships, cementing those with Japan, India, Australia, and US should be seen as a priority. Building relationships and developing alliances further can come from the UK utilising industry and its capabilities to build strategic collaborations which are beneficial to all.
 

  1. AUKUS

 

6.1  As previously mentioned, UK Industry has a role to play in supporting UK Government in building strategic relationships. At Reaction Engines, we are a one-of-a-kind company that specialises in Hypersonic and Space Access, areas which have piqued the interest of many international allies, and aggressors. This type of approach could be utilised to explore and strengthen current and future relationships.

 

6.2  The AUKUS submarine deal has already set a precedent on this which has seen governments and industry collaborating to strengthen international relationships through international programmes and capabilities.

 

6.3  If we look specifically at Space and Hypersonic, because of their dual-use capabilities they could also be used to build civil collaboration in addition to defence collaboration.
 

6.4  There have been suggestions that AUKUS will lean into Hypersonic Technology following the initial submarine agreement. Given the geographical scale of the region, and Australia’s own capability in this area this is a logical next step and UK Government should seek industry expertise to support with this endeavour.
 

6.5  AUKUS does also provide an opportunity to strengthen the diversity of supply chain and supply chain capability that would benefit both the UK and potential partners, and again the UK Government should work with industry to understand the opportunities available.  Within this context, security of access to raw, natural and renewable resources, whether they be agricultural, mineral or energy focused are also worthy of consideration,
 

  1. Does the UK need bases in the region?

 

7.1  The geopolitical positioning of aggressive nation states highlights the need for not only the UK to be ready to respond to international threats, but also our global allies.
 

7.2  In this context there is likely the need for the UK to have bases in the region but exploring this further with our own expertise is that there is also the opportunity to have geographically spread launch sites which provide access to different orbit altitudes, inclinations, and point-to-point logistical routings via sub-orbital means.

 

7.3  Having geographically spread launch sites in the region, and utilising applications such as hypersonic propulsion, coupled with responsive launch, puts the UK and our allies in a unique position to be able to respond to threats with agility, pace and in complete collaboration with international allies and partners.

 

 

4th March 2022

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