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.
The Military Intelligence Department inaugurated its joint office for geointel in January, at the Creil airbase. The new office aims to meld
The geointel office builds a layered visual presentation with geographical coordinates and pictures that which can be sent to troops on the ground carrying a portable computer.
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 1992, France ordered in 1992 its spy satellite program after in response to US Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, during the first Gulf War, declined declining to show US satellite pictures to the French defense minister.
That spurred led to France to launch launching respectively the Helios 1 and 2 programs, with the latter to be succeeded by the Musis optical satellite. The Military Intelligence Department, set up to run the space intel mission, also drew on the Syracuse telecommunications satellite.
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.
There is also French sharing of intelligence with to the US and European allies, which is vital to building confidence and , which is indispensable in the intelligence world.
France has the Ceres satellite for electronic intelligence, known as elint, which detects radars for surface-to-air missiles and countermeasures. That data is useful when preparing airstrikes such as those the US considered against Syria at the end of August and early September 2013. France had said it was ready to take part in the US-led campaign, which was then stood down.
That independent intel was a factor in the French government's declining to join the allied invasion of Iraq in 2003.
France receives shared intel from allies but insists as a matter of policy on checking the data with its own systems before launching a strike.
French analysts, examining data from the German SAR-Lupe military satellite, identified debris understood to be wreckage of the MH-370 airliner in the Indian Ocean, one . That was an example of the sharing of satellite intelligence sharing.
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.
"What we are seeing is Russian-backed aggression, often these are Russian troops, they are Russian tanks, they are Russian Grad missiles. You can't buy these things on eBay, they are coming from Russia, people shouldn't be in any doubt about that," he said in parliament,"daily The Guardian reported.
"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.