France Starts Work on Eavesdropping Satellite Despite Funding Uncertainty

PARIS — The French Protection Ministry has contracted with Airbus Defence and Area, and Thales for preliminary work on France’s first operational eavesdropping satellite tv for pc even because it struggles to align army house program targets with a 2015 price range that has not been absolutely secured, French authorities and business officers mentioned.

Underneath a contract valued at about 325 million euros ($406 million), France’s arms procurement company, DGA, expects Airbus and Thales to start work on the CERES electronics-intercept program in March, with the three satellites to be launched into low Earth orbit in 2020.

Your entire CERES price range is estimated at about 460 million euros together with the bottom phase and the primary two years of operations, which will likely be dealt with by the Airbus-Thales crew.

The issue for DGA is that it needs CERES work to begin similtaneously it plans to pick a builder for France’s next-generation army telecommunications satellite tv for pc program, tentatively referred to as Comsat NG, which might succeed the Syracuse 3 satellites now in orbit round 2021.

French protection officers have mentioned the necessity to change the present Syracuse 3 satellites is just too pressing to attend for an settlement with Britain or Italy on cost-sharing for a next-generation satellite tv for pc telecommunications infrastructure.

French protection officers have tentatively budgeted 800 million euros for Comsat NG, with an preliminary cost of 60 million euros anticipated in 2015 as soon as France decides who will construct the system. Airbus and Thales Alenia Area are each candidate prime contractors. A British collaboration would have favored Airbus, which has massive satellite tv for pc manufacturing installations in Britain. A French-Italian settlement would favor Thales Alenia Area, a Franco-Italian firm.

Airbus and Thales Alenia Area are sharing accountability for France’s next-generation optical reconnaissance satellite tv for pc program, which the French Protection Ministry continues to consult with as MUSIS — for MUltinational Area-based Imaging System for Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Statement — regardless of the absence of any actual pan-European settlement on the system.

DGA chief Laurent Collet-Billon, well-known for his no-sugarcoating talking model, advised the French Senate that France is about able to abandon hope of bringing Germany into this system, which might allow the development of a 3rd optical reconnaissance satellite tv for pc.

“The place are we with European cooperation? Nowhere,” Collet-Billon mentioned in testimony on the 2015 price range launched by the Senate the week of Nov. 24. “We’re nonetheless discussing with Germany the development of a 3rd satellite tv for pc, however for them the problem is the commercial return for his or her business. They’ve mentioned a satellite tv for pc that may be absolutely constructed by OHB [based in Bremen, Germany]. The longer we wait, the much less related the problem turns into as a result of know-how evolves.”

Collet-Billon mentioned the Italian contribution to MUSIS up to now — like Germany, Italy has its personal constellation of radar reconnaissance satellites and is involved in an optical system — “is minimal.” He mentioned Belgium has mentioned it could be keen to speculate 50 million euros within the French system, however provided that Belgian business advantages accordingly.

The MUSIS system is already below contract to Airbus and Thales Alenia Area, a deal valued at 795 million euros, and is thus extra protected than CERES from any price range issues as DGA tries to implement its program.

Key to the profitable begin of CERES is whether or not the French Protection Ministry will generate enough income, in 2015, from the sale of actual property belongings and of its license to make use of radio spectrum within the 700 megahertz frequency band.

These one-time income sources make up a big proportion of the entire army house capital outlays scheduled for 2015.

French military Gen. Pierre de Villiers, who’s chief of the French Joint Protection Employees, advised the Senate listening to that the satellite tv for pc telecommunications system should not be delayed. The satellites have to be ordered in 2015, he mentioned.

French army house spending over time has averaged round 450 million euros. However the precise funding since 2011 has been lower than 200 million euros. CERES and different deliberate packages, together with Comsat NG, have been delayed.

Collet-Billon mentioned CERES is nonetheless absolutely embedded in French army technique, which has included the launch of a number of demonstrator eavesdropping satellites to check the related applied sciences.

Totally different French army and intelligence providers have completely different priorities with respect to the radio frequencies CERES ought to take heed to, Collet-Billon mentioned. However all are agreed that the mission is essential.

“With MUSIS and CERES, we can have each the image and the sound, so to talk,” Collet-Billon mentioned. “Our precedence now’s to determine what we’re going to do on our drones. We’re finding out learn how to put this sound-and-picture functionality on the Reaper.”

France has bought Reaper unmanned aerial autos from Common Atomics of San Diego, whereas ready for a European consortium to discipline its personal autos.

The CERES system will likely be constructed by Airbus Defence and Area; Thales Airborne Methods; and Thales Alenia Area.

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