PARIS — The French city of Toulouse is to be NATO’s new center for excellence in military space. The decision was taken by NATO on Jan. 28 but was officially announced Feb. 4.
Germany had also lobbied to host the center, which will be set up at the CST (Centre Spatial de Toulouse), which is also to be the headquarters of France’s Military Space Command, on the site of France’s national space studies center known as CNES.
The new center will be NATO’s 27th center of excellence. These are military organizations that train and educate leaders and specialists from NATO member and partner countries. They assist in developing doctrines, identifying lessons learned, improving interoperability and capabilities, and testing and validating concepts through experimentation.
NATO said the centers “offer recognized expertise and experience that is of benefit to the Alliance ... while avoiding the duplication of assets, resources and capabilities already present with the Alliance.”
France already hosts one such center: the Center for Analysis and Simulation of Air Operations located on the Air Force base of Lyon-Mont Verdun.
Hervé Grandjean, a spokesman for the French Armed Forces Ministry, said in a radio interview that “Toulouse is the beating heart of the space industry and research in France with the CNES, Airbus, Thales. ... The minister of the armed forces, Florence Parly, had decided to establish the space command in Toulouse, so we already have military personnel in situ. The choice made by NATO was logical, but we welcome it.”
Françoise Dumas, president of the National Assembly’s Defense Commission, said in a statement: “We are extremely pleased that NATO has recognized France’s excellence in the space domain, in particular in the region of Toulouse. This is extremely good news for the city of Toulouse, the Occitanie region and the whole of the space ecosystem which is implanted there and constitutes a European reference.”
The first of 42 experts, of whom 25 will be French, are expected to arrive this summer, the remainder being in place by 2025.
Christina Mackenzie was the France correspondent for Defense News.