EUROPEAN C4I AND TACTICAL COMMUNICATIONS UPDATE 2011
By Stefan Nitschke, International Defence Analyst and Consultant
There are several programmes underway throughout Europe to improve existing C4I, C4ISTAR, and RSTA capabilities. Besides the UK’s Sentinel R.1 ASTOR surveillance aircraft, the premier European manned airborne surveillance system able to function with unmanned aircraft like the WK450 platform in networking the three levels of ISR, C2, and target tracking, there are several key projects in Europe that will help establishing the appropriate capacities to provide military forces with the most accurate and up-to-date information on the battlefield. The “top to bottom” approach is digital communications. Although deficiencies clearly do exist in the capabilities of several military organisations in Europe, the acquisition of modern communications equipment, battle management systems, sensors, and platforms, including unmanned aircraft, will certainly be able to fill in some of the major gaps in the upcoming years.
European C4I in and from the air
Improving European C4I capabilities is an ambitious task. Unmanned aircraft (UAV/UAS) carrying highly sophisticated sensors used for close-range and broad-area surveillance and reconnaissance will herein play an important role. Payloads of varying type, including electro-optical/infrared cameras, FLIR systems, and devices for ELINT/SIGINT missions, are available from a number of innovative manufacturers, including CASSIDIAN, Cedip Infrared, Controp Precision Technologies, DRS Technologies (a Finmeccanica company), Elbit Systems, Flir Systems, Jenoptik, L-3 Communications WESCAM, SAGEM Défense Sécurité, Raytheon, Rheinmetall Defence, SELEX Galileo, and C. Zeiss Optronics to name a few.
A major addition to the European C4I and C4ISTAR capacities is the first EuroHawk HALE UAS that has been transferred to Germany last month. In addition to the five SAR-Lupe radar satellites which were being brought into space in recent years, the German military now realised a vision to operate its own HALE UAS on the basis of the combat-proven GLOBAL HAWK system. The aircraft will carry a specialised SIGINT module developed by CASSIDIAN. Based on an agreement between EuroHawk GmbH, Northrop Grumman Corporation, EADS Defence & Security (now CASSIDIAN), and the German BWB Defence Procurement Agency of 31 January 2007, the UAS will be stationed later at the German Air Force’s 51st Recce Wing at Jagel in northwestern Germany to fulfil specific EW/SIGINT tasks across the air/land/sea battlespace.
Several European nations, including France, Germany, and the UK, are employing medium-altitude UAV/UAS in Afghanistan. While the French Armed Forces are deploying the 1,000 kilometres range SIDM (Systeme Interimaire Drone MALE) system delivered by EADS Defence & Security (CASSIDIAN) and stationed at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan since February 2010, Germany’s own MALE component is based on the IAI HERON 1 system. It is in use since February 2010. Acquired through a leasing agreement with Israel, the unmanned aircraft might well be able to cope with all of the German Bundeswehr’s SAATEG criteria in its current form. This programme has identified a requirement for a well-proven MALE UAS capable of providing imaging intelligence for the Bundeswehr in international missions.
In contrast, miniature UAV/UAS are seen as the likely platforms which are becoming organic to expeditionary forces down to the individual unit. Specifically for MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) scenarios, the European military tends to go for low-cost UAV/UAS carrying unsophisticated sensor payloads. While Dutch troops deployed in Afghanistan originally received ten German EMT-built ALADIN miniature-UAV/UAS plus five ground stations for their Special Forces Operations within the Uruzgan mission, AeroVironment’s RAVEN product added to their capability on the battlefield. As to the Dutch customer, the RA