BRUSSELS — Five EU member states, France, Italy, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom, have today agreed on an initial investment of 2.3 million euros ($3 million) to allow a European Satellite Communications Procurement Cell (ESCPC) to deliver satellite capacities in the upcoming months. Other member states can take part at a later date if they wish.
The five can “as of today benefit from pooled procurement of commercial satellite communications (SatCom) services” said a European Defence Agency press release. It adds that “The EDA ESCPC aims at pooling commercial SatCom demand from a number of EU national defence departments, reducing costs by around 10 percent.”
“The overall aim of the ESCPC is to overcome fragmented procurement of commercial SatCom capacity in order to reduce costs, promote ease of access and improve efficiency to deliver a better connectivity to armed forces of the EU member states,” said Claude-France Arnould, the EDA’s chief executive, after signing the framework contract with Astrium Services.
With the signature of the three-year contract, Astrium Services will act as a one-stop-shop.
“It will serve as contractual, commercial and operational interface toward SatCom operators, providing the participating Member States with commercial bands (C, Ku and Ka),” says the EDA.
In military operations, satellite communications are fundamental for communication, and command and control. They also allow operational effectiveness of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, including remotely piloted aircraft. Member states often resort to commercial SatCom either to complement similar military capabilities or as the sole means to effectively conduct military operations.
Separately, the EDA estimates that its embryonic military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) capacities’ project could yield savings on the order of 1 billion euros from combining research and technology investments, the acquisition of recurring assets and standardized operations.
According to the EDA, “Europe now also has the opportunity to cooperate to replace the existing national-based military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) capacities. In this respect EDA proposes the concept of Secure Telecom by Satellite (SECTELSAT) — a cooperative approach inspired by the pooling and sharing initiative.
“The initiative foresees a scheme in which MILSATCOM operating nations will: Pool MILSATCOM assets with other operating nations for mutual benefits (increased coverage and operational flexibility); Share MILSATCOM capacities by giving access for non-MILSATCOM Nations under defined conditions; Contribute to a European MILSATCOM capability package for the Common Security and Defence Policy.”
Defense News understands from a source familiar with the issue that the national military satellites will need to be replaced between 2017 and 2025 and that, given the long procurement cycle, decisions need to be taken by 2015.