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Thoughts About European Space and Euro-Atlantic Cooperation

Thoughts About European Space and Euro-Atlantic Cooperation

To respond to the various American proposals for “cooperation” in space and defense, Europe must establish a Global European Space Policy (GESP) which could partially integrate civil and military domains. It must define and program the means for placing Europe in a more balanced position vis-à-vis the United States, and develop programs favouring federation and integration, which demonstrate Europe’s capabilities in the area.

The objective is to provide Europe with autonomous capacities for access to and control of Space, enabling, among other things, its industry to be a significant equal partner and not just a mere subcontractor. Analysis and proposals by Didier Compard (*) Senior Adviser and International Defense Consultant, Paris, April 25, 2004.

Didier C. Compard, Senior Advisor and International Defense Consultant. Photo European-Security.org

 Didier Compard (European-Security Photo Ó)

  • Introduction

“Space represents the same challenge today that nuclear deterrence did in the sixties” (Interview of Michèle Alliot-Marie, Air & Cosmos, June 13, 2003)

Mastery of extra-atmospheric space (above 120 km altitude) has always been a strategic challenge for the security of the world’s major powers.

- This mastery of space concerns not only satellite systems, but more and more, the means of getting into space and all types of sub-orbital ballistic systems.

- The United States has established a clearly stated policy of Dominance in Space, which represents a challenge for Europe, and in particular for France, the major European space power.

France and Europe cannot acquire and conserve the status of major power without disposing of the technologies and space hardware allowing them:

  • -- In the field of security and defense:

- to evaluate globally the threat in an autonomous fashion

- to manage crises all over the world relying on their own assets,

- to meet the threats, either by defense, or by a response capability in a concept of an extended deterrent

- to cooperation in a more balanced and equal fashion with the United States

  • -- In the field of space science and extra-terrestrial exploration:

- to be able to continue playing a major role in these areas, in particular with orbital vehicles and exploration craft.

  • The Control of Space: A Strategic challenge (1)

Mastery of the technologies relating to space launch vehicles and satellites is a crucial component of military power.

Beyond the development of ballistic missiles or observation and telecommunication satellites, the entire scope of modern weaponry today relies on space capabilities, notably for mastery of the acquisition of information in real time, and the superiority that this provides on the theatre of operations.

Intelligence gathering (imagery or electronic intelligence) high speed data transmission, surveillance of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, early warning systems against ballistic missile threats, and positioning systems for aiming high precision weapons, are some examples showing how important space has become in modern conflicts.

Strategic and tactical from the military standpoint, space is just as important in civil applications, including commercial applications, which are becoming more and more vital in our daily lives and in the global economy for transmission of imagery and data, telephony, terrestrial and aerial navigation, and weather forecasting.

  • SDI: “Space Dominance Initiative”

The United States has, of course, made space systems a privileged instrument of its strategic, political, economic and scientific pre-eminence. America alone supplies 80% of the public financial investments for space in the world, and the figure would reach 95% if one includes military space.

The efforts America makes are not on the decline, but are increasing. The combined amount of budgets devoted to space, in both the civil and military domains, represents an annual total of around 40 billion dollars, with the FY 2005 budget for unclassified military space programs alone reaching $12.4 billion.

Such considerable amounts reflect the political priority granted to space, and the firm determination to maintain the American technological advance. Besides the renewal and the perfecting of the current observation, navigation and telecommunication satellites, the United States is developing a new generation of launch vehicles the will compete with European launchers providing and alternative to Europe’s vehicles.

Moreover, the new policy for the conquest of space proposed by George W. Bush, the Moon/Mars plan, could give America a monopoly with the development of new Earth orbit and extra-terrestrial transportation systems.

But it’s the Missile Defense program especially, whose architecture was changed to a much more ambitious form by the Bush administration, that the new developments are planned. This program includes a major space component with SBIRS surveillance satellites devoted to early detection of missile firings, but also projects for interception from and in space, of missiles during their powered phase either by laser (Space Based Laser), or by launching of exo atmospheric interceptors (certain of which should be deployed in 2004, and the “Space Based experiment”).

Concerning the importance of space in the American strategic doctrine, a new level was attained in January 2001, when the commission in charge of evaluating the organization and management of America’s space activities published its report. The commission was under the authority of Donald Rumsfeld before he became Secretary of Defense. The report made a sensation by revealing the high degree of dependency the United States has with regards to space systems, and the necessity of protecting them from possible attack, so as not to be vulnerable to a “Pearl Harbour” in space. The theme of controlling space was particularly stressed, and it covered three aspects: surveillance of space, passive protection of satellite systems against aggression, and the development of offensive assets which would deny the use of space to a potential adversary (enemy or rival).

This was formally announced by James Roche, Secretary of the US Air Force in the summer of 2003, by foreseeing the deployment of a fleet of “rapid launch military space planes” by 2014.

  • These considerations reopen the debate on the “militarization of space”.

If the 1967 treaty on space forbids the presence of nuclear weapons in space or all other type of weapons of mass destruction, it doesn’t settle the question of other types of weapons and defensive assets. We can clearly see that a new controversy is arising between the United States, or at least those who advocate the development of space weapons, and a large portion of the international community, who favour the extension of the application of the 1967 treaty to all kinds of offensive weapons.

Moreover, under the cloak of evolutions in technology and geopolitics, a treaty can be unilaterally denounced (CF: the ABM Treaty).

Missile Defense--with a budget of more than 10 billion dollars per year—is motivated by objectives that the United States doesn’t conceal:

  • Space dominance, and at the same time irrigating their space and defense industry.

It is seen even clearer when in April 2004, Condoleezza Rice declared before the 9/11 Commission, that Missile Defense, in addition to its objective of dissuasion, “Would also allow America to have a more aggressive foreign policy.”

  • International Cooperation

The United States, however, invites its allies and “friends” to cooperate with them on Missile Defense:

 On June 13, 2002, George W Bush promised to deploy an antimissile defense system as soon as possible in order to protect the American people and US forces in the field against the growing threats we are facing. Because these threats also place allies and friends in the world in danger, he declared that it is essential that we work together for our mutual protection, an important task that the ABM treaty prohibited. He added that the United States will strengthen the dialogue and cooperation with other nations in the domain of anti-missile defense.

The method is similar to the Bush plan for the exploration of Moon and Mars, where we find a single sentence concerning international cooperation in the speech made by George W. Bush, which remains unclear: “We will invite other nations to share the challenges and opportunities of this new era of discovery.” And further on: “We choose to explore space, because doing so improves our lives and lifts our national spirit.” 

Though officially, it is not the case, Missile Defense and Space exploration are linked. It is not surprising, therefore, that the former director of the DoD’s Office of Missile Defense (BMDO), Lt General Lester Lyles, was named to the presidential committee supervising the Moon-Mars program managed by the former Under-Secretary to the US Air Force, Pete Aldridge.

  • And Europe ... ?

Facing such clearly affirmed American ambitions, Europe has a bit of difficulty defining its strategy. Its financial means are not in the same order of magnitude. Between the total space budget of the European countries and the American space budget, the ratio is one to three in the civil sector and one to twenty in the military domain, where only France has truly made a significant effort.

Europe cannot ignore America’s initiative. It must establish a Global European Space Policy (GESP) which could include, at least partially, the civil and military sectors. It must define and launch mid and long term programs, to provide the means of putting itself in a more equal position with respect to the United States, and develop programs to integrate and demonstrate European capabilities in this sector.

This does not mean undertaking a race with the United States in the space asset domain, for which we do not share all of the same objectives and ambitions. It is, however, a must to provoke a true awareness in Europe of the risk that space represents, and to set up an appropriate policy. Without federating the efforts which today are disbursed, it will be difficult to maintain Europe’s strategic autonomy in space in a durable manner, and to avoid being technologically dependent on the United States. In spite of progress in bi- or trilateral cooperation, much is left to be done to define a real European space policy worthy of the challenges or the future.

  • Some considerations and proposals for Europe’s future needs in defense and space exploration.

In the area of telecommunications and observation satellites, if there is a desire for European cooperation, it will concern the following generations, meaning those after 2015 for telecommunications, and towards 2012 for observation.

But we must right now start thinking about what could come afterwards.

In other areas (electronic intelligence gathering, early warning, laser links) France has begun philosophising about demonstrators to ensure the feasibility before going on to operational systems in the corresponding domains.

The demonstrators in question are: ESSAIM for electromagnetic intelligence, LOLA for laser links, and SPIRAL for early warning.

These demonstrators are developed nationally (attempts to find cooperating partners having failed).

The operational systems that follow should be developed in cooperation. We must think about and plan for these programs now.

These capabilities should be complimented by appropriate means (identification of suspicious satellites, space debris surveillance, status of friendly satellites…) to respond to Europe’s needs in the surveillance of space. Capabilities for the surveillance of space will make it possible to control space operations such as launching, orbital rendezvous or de-orbiting of satellites at end-of-life.

Other needs are emerging in the area of control of space, such as neutralization of suspicious satellites, launching of mini or micro-satellites on demand, inspection or refurbishing of orbital structures….

In particular, with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles on one hand, and the risks incurred by the obsolescence of strategic assets of certain traditional nuclear powers, Europe must think about the safety of its inhabitants. In this framework, we must envisage the means of ballistic defense, supported by nuclear deterrence, space surveillance and control of space.

Would it not be advisable to organize a campaign of information for the French and European public, explaining the threat and the complementarities of nuclear deterrence and protection?

At the same time, an architecture for space and defense systems should be defined, first in France, to be adapted to the needs of a certain strategic autonomy for Europe.

For example, France could take the initiative of federating the European vision concerning proliferation so as to define a European strategy for “Non-proliferation” in the context of ESDP, as well as one for “Counter-proliferation”.

France, in fact, could be the leader of these reflections, since it has the technical competence and industries in the strategic “systems of systems” field (nuclear, space, ballistic, etc.).

The first concrete step could be European cooperation concerning threat analysis, with the creation of a “European Intelligence Group” dealing with proliferation and anti-ballistic strategic defense among other things.

France would propose the Europeanization of an operational space system for surveillance and early warning, and would launch a program for demonstration of interceptors, integrating and federating Europe’s capacities in the area.

Euro-Atlantic cooperation would not be obscured, but if America is to take us seriously, we must make global and unified propositions for cooperation. Let’s show them that we have a project and an objective to develop capabilities in Europe which will enable us to be in a position of an equal partner in a “New NATO”, instead of a mere subcontractor as in the JSF partnerships.

Lastly, concerning astronaut transportation for the Moon-Mars project, Europe must seriously analyse whether the projects and programs planned meet the objectives for a possible equitable cooperation with the USA.

The ideas to be developed are: Research programs, integration and demonstration of Europe’s capabilities, links between technologies, systems and know-how of civil and military space.

The objective to be sought is always to build concrete transatlantic solutions allowing equalitarian partnerships, industrial and otherwise.

In any case, new budgets must be found if Europe wants to play a major role in the world, and if it doesn’t want to be left behind by the Chinese, the Indians, or even the Pakistanis.

Didier Compard ©

  • (*) Didier G. Compard is a Physicist, graduated from the French École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie of Paris and in Astronautics, from the Polytechnic University of New York. He developed a career in Aerospace industries (EADS) on Nuclear deterrence, space and strategic weapon systems and as an international Senior Analyst on the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Weapons (WMD). Now, Senior Advisor and International Defense Consultant, he is an adviser for different industry and political groups for questions related to the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP), Space technologies and systems and proliferation.

(1) (CF: Article by Senator Xavier de Villepin; Dossiers de l’Abécédaire Parlementaire, 2nd Quarter, 2003.

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).