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By Stefan Nitschke, International Defence Analyst and Consultant

Throughout 2009 and the first half of the present year, military forces in Europe were continually improving their military ISR capabilities. Major programmes were to provide for new sensors, manned/unmanned platforms, and real-time communications links. The »War on Terrorism« shows that an enhanced ISR capability can bring information superiority to the forces and allows them to close the sensor-to-shooter cycle. Of the key programmes, the long-standing Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system will be realised to fill in the gaps in the radar picture by providing multiple angles on a target and to take a closer look at a target by employing additional on-board sensors like electro-optical/infrared sensors. Following a NATO’s Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) on 30 April 2009, the current plans call for an off-the-shelf solution comprising air segment of RQ-4B Block 40 GLOBAL HAWK high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) and a ground segment. Meanwhile, two of the original partners, Poland and Turkey, withdrew from the programme. Turkey, however, could contribute to NATO’s AGS by employing its national 737-700 AEW&C assets which are presently being developed under the PEACE EAGLE programme. The US$2.1Bn AGS project, however, could be in danger, if any further withdrawals may occur. Critics stressed that any alteration in the AGS programme like this could likely result in technological and operational losses as also said earlier during the Five Power Meeting between the armament directors of France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the US held in Toulouse in mid October 2005.

Another key programme in Europe is the British Skynet 5 project. There are presently three military hardened Skynet 5 military communications satellites in orbit, delivering pinpoint, precise communications anywhere in the world. While Skynet 5A and Skynet 5B entered service in April 2007 and January 2008, respectively, Skynet 5C was launched in June 2008. The satellites, which were designed, built, and launched by EADS Astrium for Paradigm, rank amongst the most powerful military X-Band satellites. Paradigm, the world’s leading commercial provider of military-grade satellite communications, told that the capabilities and bandwidth of the three satellites provide exceptional service to the UK military and other customers of Paradigm. The satellites carry UHF and SHF payloads, provide secure control links, and feature an anti-jam capability, switchable connectivity, and support for legacy terminals.

Clear road map towards C4ISR and C4ISTAR operations

In the current thinking, longer range (strategic) UAS will be increasingly deployed within a dedicated C4I environment for a wider ISR role. Within this force structure, they acquire and disseminate battlefield information which can be shared in time among various platforms, units, and commands (at whatever level) to allow them to make faster and better decisions.

One key example in Europe is the German EuroHawk project. In addition to the five SAR-Lupe radar satellites which were being brought into space in recent years, the German military developed a vision to operate its own HALE UAS on the basis of the combat-proven GLOBAL HAWK system. Based on an agreement between EuroHawk GmbH, Northrop Grumman Corporation, EADS Defence & Security, and the German BWB Defence Procurement Agency of 31 January 2007, the German Bundeswehr will receive four production systems between 2016 and 2017, with a prototype vehicle being delivered in summer 2010. Stationed at the German Air Force’s 51st Recce Wing at Jagel (northwestern Germany), the UAS would then fulfil specific EW/SIGINT tasks across the air/land/sea battlespace.

On 29 June 2010, the first flight of the EuroHawk unmanned aircraft was conducted over California. The EuroHawk marks the first international configurat

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