EDA’s Governmental Satellite Communications (GOVSATCOM) Pooling and Sharing demonstration project (GSC Demo) entered its execution phase this Tuesday 15 January with the first meeting of the Project Arrangement Management Group taking place in Madrid.
This means that the project is now ready to provide GOVSATCOM services to meet the GOVSATCOM demands of Member States and European CSDP actors through pooled capabilities (bandwidth/power and/or services) provided by contributing Member States. This governmental pooled capability is set up to provide satellite communication (SATCOM) resources that cannot be obtained on the commercial market with sufficient level of guaranteed access and security. The GSC Demo corresponds responds to an existing need and is fully in line with the revised 2018 Capability Development Plan and its related EU Defence Capability Priorities. It has also to be seen in the light of the ongoing efforts within the European Union to establish an EU GOVSATCOM within the EU’s next space programme. Furthermore, the GSC Demo project also complements EDA’s EU Satcom Market project, already in place since 2012, which provides commercially available SATCOM and CIS services in an efficient and effective manner.
Today’s milestone was achieved after intensive work done since June 2017 to establish a Project Arrangement. Under the leadership of Spain, all 15 contributing EDA Member States of the project (Spain, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, France, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom) accepted the Project Arrangement as baseline for mutual support and collaboration. Norway, which has signed an Administrative Arrangement with the Agency, is also contributing to the project.
EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq, who attended today’s meeting in Madrid, stated: “The role of satellite communication in a European strategic autonomy perspective cannot be overstated. I am pleased to say that EDA has played its part in facilitating SATCOM solutions for the EU for some time and in an incremental fashion that has proved quite successful. This GSC Demo project together with the Agency’s EU SatCom Market project underlines the importance of SATCOM and confirms the priority that has been granted to this capability during the most recent revision of the Capability Development Plan".
Major General Salvador Alvarez Pascual, the Deputy Director of Programs in the Spanish Ministry of Defence, said: "Now it is time to start this project which is the result of significant work of experts from different nations. Spain will face the chairmanship of the Project Arrangement Management Group with confidence to have a good cooperation. The project will fulfill our common objectives and targets and provides the ideal opportunity to test its governance“.
Reliable, stable and secure communications are crucial in any CSDP mission and operation. Yet, terrestrial network infrastructures are not available everywhere, for instance in areas hit by natural disasters, at sea, in the air or in hostile zones. SATCOM can be the solution: rapidly deployable, flexible and distance insensitive, SATCOM can offer communication links where terrestrial networks are damaged, overloaded or non-existent.
However, access to SATCOM cannot be taken for granted at any time, especially not when governmental users require them at short notice and without pre-arranged agreements. In situations of high demand, competition with other users of commercial SATCOM capacities creates a risk of non-availability and high costs. Against this backdrop, EU leaders decided in 2013 that there was a need for a new solution combining the advantages of commercial and military satellite systems in order to address both civil and military needs through European cooperation. The European Defence Agency, in collaboration with the European Commission and the European Space Agency, since then is preparing the next generation of GOVSATCOM.
GOVSATCOM is seen as a capability that is placed in between the commercial satellite communication market and the highly protected military satellite communication capability.
The project originates from an EDA Steering Board decision of November 2013 which tasked EDA to pursue its work on GOVSATCOM coordination with Member States, the European Commission and the European Space Agency in order to propose a comprehensive programme for Member States who wish to participate. After a sound preparatory work, the aforementioned EDA Member States decided in June 2017 to establish the GSC Demo project and intensify their collaboration in GOVSATCOM.