France Proceeding with Next-gen Communications, Intel Systems


TORONTO — The French Defense Ministry on Oct. 1 said its planned electronic-intelligence satellite and next-generation military telecommunications satellite systems have survived a rough arbitrage of France’s budget and would be under contract in 2015.

The budget package outlined Oct. 1 does not specify cost amounts. It further suggests that the Defense Ministry may have recourse to a sale-and-leaseback formula to generate near-term cash that will help meet the requirements of its priority programs.

French officials continue to debate whether to outsource the nation’s next-generation Syracuse military telecommunications system to the private sector, as has been done in Britain and, to a lesser extent, in Italy and Germany; or to proceed with a conventional procurement.

France has also been talking with Italian and British military planners about combining at least part of their future military satellite communications needs, perhaps with a jointly owned satellite that would act as a backup for these nations’ primary satellite telecommunications assets.

Meanwhile, France’s Ceres electronic-intelligence satellite system, planned as three spacecraft flying in formation in low Earth orbit, has been a French priority for several years but has struggled for traction in a harsh budget environment. Adding to the problem has been France’s inability to interest other European nations in joining Ceres.

Airbus Defence and Space and Thales Alenia Space, Europe’s two biggest satellite manufacturers, which both have a large presence in France, are already under contract for initial Ceres studies. Both have also expressed interest in managing the future military telecommunications satellite program with France as the anchor customer.