Claude-France Arnould, EDA: “it is ‘vital’ Europe has ISR capabilities”
Europe must have its own space-based ISR capabilities to ensure precision and limit civilian casualties when conducting military operations, said Claude-France Arnould, the head of the European Defence Agency (EDA).
Space-based assets are of direct relevance for the provision of critical information to decision-makers at strategic, tactical and operational level and for secure communications as well as positioning and timing. Most recently the importance of timely and precise Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance has been underlined in the context of the Libyan crisis, during which the European Union Satellite Center provided important imagery products.
Speaking at a conference on EU space policy, Arnould said for Europe to minimize collateral damage and civilian victims during interventions, it is “vital” Europe has ISR capabilities and that “space technologies are key.”
The EU’s satellite center in Spain shares commercial and government images (e.g. from countries such as Germany and Italy) with other EU member states during EU operations abroad, including the counterpiracy mission off Somalia.
Space will be part of EU defense ministers’ discussions about areas for possible pooling and sharing at their Nov. 30 meeting in Brussels, she said.
Among the EDA’s proposals will be a procurement cell for satellite communications services. There had been a plan to set up the cell in 2010 but now the earliest date is 2012.
In September, at an annual space conference here hosted by the French think tank the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales and the Secure World Foundation, an EDA official said that the UK, France, Italy, Poland and Romania were set to take part in the cell and the hope is that more countries will join.
“The idea is to share commercial satellite communications procurement to get better prices on the market than is currently the case,” said the official.
On its website, the EDA says that “satellite communications are essential for Common Security and Defence Policy crisis management operations. However, the military have to compete on a market dominated by civilian users (above 95 percent)” and that “the European Satellite Communications Procurement Cell (ESCPC) is a three-year pilot project (2011-2013) in order to gain practical experience with pooling commercial satellite communications procurement at the EU level”.
At the same conference, the EU’s crisis response commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, said that cooperation with the military (e.g. military satellites giving information) must be done so as not to put at risk humanitarian operations or lives. She cited Haiti as an example of where the military provided relief, and Somalia or Sudan, where the military provided security for civilian and humanitarian workers.
However, “where the military can be seen as part of the problem, we must ensure that military capabilities are applied as a last resort” and “where they can be a major problem, they shouldn’t be used at all.”