Defence and Space Big ambitions for Europe

CNES has been helping to give the French military the communications, optical imaging and signals intelligence assets it needs for more than 55 years. This year marks a turning point, with the election of a new President providing a new perspective on the kinds of missions the nation’s armed forces will be asked to accomplish and the means that will be appropriated to them.
Space supports a threefold strategic, capability and industrial ambition. At the 15th Summer Defence Conference, CNES intends to contribute to the debate in the spirit of its federating mantra “Inventing the future of space”.
Strategic ambition
In today’s fast-changing world, France has big responsibilities to shoulder. It often represents Europe in action, capable of engaging its troops and making its voice heard.
Space is one illustration of this independent capability, in the domain both of launchers and of space systems.
New private players like SpaceX and Blue Origin are now emerging alongside traditional government players. CNES, its partners at ESA and industry are working on Ariane 6, a flexible, modular and competitive launcher geared to the needs of the institutional and commercial markets from 2020 onwards, and to maintaining Europe’s independent space launch capability.
Space assets support France’s diplomacy efforts and operations. Imaging, communications and signals intelligence strengthen its position in the world and offer Europe an independent assessment capability to enable decision-making and action on the basis of objective criteria.
Capability ambition
To fulfil this strategic ambition, the French military is able to rely on space assets to which CNES has contributed to a large extent.
The Helios 2 and Pleiades satellites deliver high-performance optical imagery to French armed forces. To sustain this level of capability, France’s military planners have initiated the CSO optical space component of the European MUSIS programme (MUltinational Space-based Imaging System), the first satellite of which is scheduled to be operational in 2019. The German military are also contributing to this programme.
In the domain of signals intelligence (SIGINT), by 2020 the French armed forces will be acquiring a new capability with the CERES constellation (CapacitE de Renseignement Electromagnétique Spatial). These satellites will be able to detect, analyse and locate electromagnetic signals anywhere in the world.
The Syracuse 4 satellites scheduled for launch from 2020 will provide a permanent, highly secure and jamproof link between forces in the field and military authorities in France. Besides Syracuse 4, the French military and CNES have also conducted the Athena-Fidus dual-use programme with their Italian partners.
To maintain this level of capability vital to the nation’s strategic ambitions, the Ministry of Defence and CNES are working together on the OTOS and Constellation Optique 3D Earth-observation programmes, and the FAST and Telemak satcom programmes to develop the new assets that will succeed those currently in service.
Lastly, the threat of increased weaponization of space makes protecting our satellites essential. Upgrades to the Graves space surveillance and tracking radar and the EU-SST initiative being pursued with four European partners, the European Commission and the European Union Satellite Centre are boosting our independent SST capability. Looking further ahead, the French military and CNES are working to make our military and dual-use satellites more resilient.
Industrial ambition
France can rely on a strong industry to keep delivering highly effective systems able to respond to the growing threats facing our armed forces. This industry is supported by government, which is devoting significant resources to R&T and innovation.
This is France’s industrial ambition; since the start of the space era, it has invested in numerous civil and military programmes, on its own, in collaboration with partners and at European level. Space supports 16,000 direct jobs for our nation.
Today, this ambition is on the scale of Europe. Emerging nations are investing in this global market, new players from the digital sphere are entering the fray and communications, services and applications requirements are growing exponentially.
In our data-driven society, European industry—start-ups, big manufacturers, integrators and service firms alike—must be capable of adapting to new military and civil needs.
France has a key role to play in shaping this evolution, given the standards its space industry has set and the investments it has made to develop that industry. With its newly formed Directorate of Innovation, Applications and Science (DIA), CNES is gearing itself to speed up this process.
The successes France has achieved stem from big ambitions. Its place in Europe and in the world is strengthened by the military capabilities it deploys in numerous theatres. Its successes in space are also based on maintaining an independent capability.
These two ambitions have drawn on significant human and financial resources, which are the result of a firm political commitment. And today, France is reaping the diplomatic, economic and social rewards of that commitment.
It must now convince its European partners to share these ambitions and investments in the military and space domains, to enable future successes that will bind Europe together and make it stronger, thus fulfilling the hopes of its citizens.