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Lack of Strategic Milsatcom Synergy Will Plague EU’s Defense Architecture

By | March 29, 2010
      By Richard Kusiolek

      The military of the European Union (EU) comprises the national armed forces of 27 member states, and next-generation military systems and defense policy process are key concerns in Europe, according to panelists “European MilSatCom: Increasing Demands, Uncertain Architecture” session.
          While individual states are responsible for their militaries, agencies such as European Defense Agency (EDA) have been created to promote a defense structure and oversee temporary EU defense forces as well as military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the  common European defense structure is struggling with a milsatcom puzzle that does not appear to fit the original portrait of a common defense architecture, ground equipment and services standards and coalition system interoperability.
          Richard Skinner, vice president, Strategic Planning, Lockheed Martin, said, “The conceptual view of a European milsatcom puzzle that is put together but is not a true picture as when first drawn. It is not a simple European puzzle, for there are gaps, and try as you must, the pieces do not fit. Standards need to apply, and security and communication arrangements need to exist. A lot of these national communication systems seem to get hatched in the backroom. The bits flow, but they are not scalable to the resources available. You see coalition forces leasing transponder capacity on the same commercial communication satellite.” 
          As of 2009, the EDA has a staff of around 109. Rodolphe Paris, EDA’s project officer for  satcom, SSA and RS, launched the European Satellite Communication. Procurement Cell project to pool European Defense satcom capacity needs and generate economic and operational benefits for the various ministries of defence. “The EDA aims to establish a European Framework Cooperation for Security and Defense Research, together with the European Commission. This framework provides the overarching structure for maximizing complementary and synergy between defense and civilian security-related research activities which would lead to a common defense capability. While we now have milsats that have five different approaches, the reality is that it is impossible to untwist this. We need to think about building new milsats that can be shared by all (member nations), and, of course, many thoughts about this have to be changed.” 
          With the ComsatBw-1satellite launched in October and ComsatBw-2 launched March 26, the German Armed Forces aim to have a secure information network for use by units on deployed missions. Johann Pohany, managing director of Germany’s NDSatcom, said, “The defense outlook into 2025 will still be fragmented. We have three different positions in Europe. For example, we have, the realist, who states that a national defense program is wasteful and also, ‘How do we pay for it?’ Next, we have the dreamer, who believes that by 2025 we will have an EU army, joint operations and consolidation. Finally, we have the pessimist, who says, ‘Do we really want to share secrets? We must keep our national pride.’” 
          Telespazio provides satellite operations and services Earth observation, satellite navigation, integrated networks for multimedia telecommunications and integrated connectivity. Marco Brancati, vice president, Telespazio, said, “We partnered on the financing of Sicral with the Italian [Ministry of Defence] and this upgraded us into a service communication and satellite operator. Sicral gives the Italian armed forces proprietary satellite communications capacity for strategic and tactical links in Italy and for out-of-area operations, with terrestrial, naval program was divided into three phases. The first took place in 2001 with the launch of the Sicral 1 satellite, which is still in use and has a remaining life of around three years. The second phase began with the launch of Sicral 1B, which will have an expected operational lifespan of 13 years. We will continue to pursue the Sicral 2 with the Italian [Ministry of Defence] and with cooperation from France, which will involve the construction of Sicral 2 to be launched in 2013. We will have new missions that will be shared with institutions and the military because of the current money issues. Believe me the process is long and with multicultural aspects.”
          Malcolm Peto, CEO of Telecom Services and chairman of Paradigm, said, “We can work together on the technology, but culturally that is a harder call. Most European Nations are short of money and must procure outside of the military procurement process. Also, you have to overcome the national taxation rules. The EU satellite industry needs to take a leading role in milsatcom. However, a joint effort with all participants has a long way to go. Under ESA, the budget is 10 times smaller than the defense budget of the individual ministry of defences. There is a political element as well. For example, politician said let us build Galileo, but it will take 20 years to complete, or two generations.
          According to Paris, “An R&D organization does not deliver military programs, and they are not capability driven. Industry expects a long-term commitment. A lot of work needs to be done on the space industry side,” he said.
          “Governments have to get involved with industry, but the government has to be the head,” Peto said. “The military will never get the capability that they need by working with ESA. Cash issues exist, and the defense industry is still fragmented, however, military procurement systems could be merged.”
          Pohany said, “I do not see national programs integrating. We are not there yet.”

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