PARIS — France draws on its own system of military intelligence satellites to deliver geospatial intel, a resource seen as key to political independence and used for sharing valuable data with the armed forces and allies, a defense official said.
That geospatial or geointel capability is intended to support an "autonomous appreciation" of conflicts such as Ukraine by the French Defense Ministry, the chiefs of staff and political leaders, the official said, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The geointel approach is being used to track Islamist insurgents in Iraq and Syria, and in the Sahel sub-Saharan Africa.
There is electromagnetic, signals and human intelligence, map references, and pictures sent to military analysts who can brief the force commanders. The aim is to anticipate and plan operations swiftly, the official said.
That "geo-referencing" can be used for targeting data for missiles.
"The military intelligence department is investing heavily in this domain," an Air Force officer said. The main objective is to provide intel to units on the ground.
"Geoint will be a useful tool to fuze different sources of information — imagery, signal and human intelligence — and to produce accurate intel data."
In the Ukraine crisis, there is "disinformation" from both the Russian and Ukraine separatist side, the official said. NATO also supplying intelligence.
An autonomous capability is vital in a conflict such as Ukraine, where there is "disinformation" from both sides — the Russians and the pro-Russian separatists on one side, Kiev and NATO on the other.
For instance, the military intelligence department might be asked by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to verify a report from another country that Russian troops are massed on the Ukraine border, ready to invade. The department can draw on its own resources to inspect and say, "I do not see that," the source said. There might be Russian forces but they are not ready for combat, or the fuel supply is not available.
The military analysts can also identify Russian tanks and surface-to-air missiles and distinguish them from weapons of the Ukrainian Army.
That is the "autonomous appreciation," the source said.
"When you listen to NATO intelligence on Ukraine, it is fairly American intelligence" with a slightly "partisan" objective, the source said.
On the Ukraine crisis, the French military intel picks up social media of Russian mothers whose sons stationed by the border complain that they are bored. The capability allows a grasp of the state of mind on the ground.
That independent intel was a factor in the French government's declining to join the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The planned Musis satellite will gather and generate high data flow, and the intel department will need a system to manage the product. Already, the department needs an extra 300 or so staff to cope with the workload.
France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia agreed on Feb. 12 a further cease-fire after a summit meeting in Minsk.
Britain is sending military advisers to Ukraine as British Prime Minister David Cameron said Feb. 24 there was intelligence to support the claim that Russia has sent soldiers and weapons to fight alongside the separatists.
"We have got the intelligence, we have got the pictures and the world knows that. Sometimes people don't want to see that but that is the fact," he said.