is likely to become a more highly valued missile-defense ally of the
in 2009 following the launch of two demonstration satellites, an advisor to the French government said.
Once the two Spirale technology-demonstration satellites are launched in February,
will be able to demonstrate that it is serious about missile warning systems and thereby be treated with less disdain by
authorities, Francois Heisbourg said.
Speaking to a missile-defense conference here Oct. 23, organized by French think tank Cercles de Brienne, Heisbourg said Spirale will do for missile-warning consultations between the two allies what
‘s Helios reconnaissance satellites did for bilateral collaboration on high-resolution military satellite imagery.
, a well-known French defense specialist, was a member of the French commission that produced a White Paper on Defense and National Security that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is using to reform
‘s military structure. The reforms include spending more on military space programs.
The French Helios optical reconnaissance satellites were launched starting in the mid-1990s and permitted
to make its own judgment about troop movements and other events that worried the
, France and other NATO allies.
“I remember very well the humiliations we suffered when the
representative would come and say, ‘Look at these photos of SS-20s [ballistic missiles] or what is going on in this corner of
. Does everyone understand?’ Then he would collect all the photos and leave. When we demonstrated our own optical observation system, the relationship changed completely.”
has operated the Defense Support Program (DSP) missile detection satellites since 1970.
The two Spirale satellites, intended as inexpensive demonstrators to teach skills French authorities will need to use a future operational system, are not intended to have an operational use. But Heisbourg said they will play a symbolic role by showing that
is serious about missile defense.
Francois Gere, director of the French Institute for Strategic Analysis, did not disagree with Heisbourg’s assessment but said that, since
has generated the same kind of resentments among its European allies that the
. “We too have used our ability to show images we have gathered in ways that vex our allies in
,” Gere said.
Since the start of the French Helios program,
have launched their own military observation satellites.
said that what was true in the early 1990s with optical reconnaissance is also true today for missile warning:
needs its own ability to judge what other nations, particularly
, are doing without relying exclusively on
,” Heisbourg said. “
‘s defense budget is about one-fifth that of France, and they live in a rough neighborhood. “Yet they have been able to build and launch optical and radar reconnaissance satellites, using their own technology and relying on their own resources, it’s not money that comes from
aid. I think we can afford to spend a few hundred million euros on a missile-warning system including a long-range ground radar to be able to track missile activity in someplace like