SULTAN is a cooperative effort between the European Defence Agency and the European Space Agency, with the participation of Member States’ experts and several EU bodies, performed by a team of experts from different European companies under the lead of Airbus Defence and Space. The SULTAN study aimed at identifying potential options/solutions to enhance the collection capabilities in the area of Imagery INTelligence through innovative and technologically feasible solutions, able to deliver an operational capability at the 2025 - 2030 time frame, to meet the need of persistent surveillance of wide areas in defence and security operations.
The project provided analysis and description of operational scenarios, technology roadmaps, rough estimation of cost, time schedule and respective merits of assets/systems based on geostationary satellite systems, constellations of optical and radar small/mini satellites in low earth orbit, High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite Systems (HAPS) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).
The study was organized in three phases:
The study addressed the challenges of persistent surveillance in military and security operations: four operational scenarios were selected (Peace Enforcement operation, Situation and Environment Assessment, Border Monitoring, Civil unrest) and described by the experts attending the workshops organized at the European Space Agency Technical Centre in Noordwijk (NL).
- initially, representative operational scenarios and associated IMINT requirements were selected involving stakeholders from Member States and EU bodies such as EDA, European Space Agency, EU Military Staff, EU Satellite Centre and FRONTEX;
- then, airborne and space-based IMINT collection systems were described in terms of pros and cons, along with their expected performances in the time horizon 2025 – 2030; technological roadmaps were defined, critical technology areas identified and necessary level of investment was categorized. An estimate of the procurement and operations costs for each of the candidate collection assets were also provided;
- finally, the candidate systems were evaluated against the IMINT requirements identified during phase one. Merits and shortfalls of each system were derived in detail. A combined architecture was defined and its ability to fulfil the identified IMINT requirements was assessed, together with associated risks and costs.
This approach clearly highlighted the numerous commonalities in terms of requirements of defence and security operations, showing how those operational needs could be tackled by the same group of assets taken in consideration within the SULTAN study.
Furthermore, the analysis performed showed a real complementarity between the selected assets which are likely to be used concurrently or successively in order to achieve the objectives pertaining to a given phase of operations.
Generally speaking, the study represents a significant first brick in EDA Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability development process (analysis, identification and selection of IMINT capacities) and, at the same time, can support the selection process of critical technologies necessary for the achievement of persistent surveillance capability.
A new phase of requirements definition to support the selection of airborne and space-based future capabilities and an analysis with Member States on possible cooperative opportunities can rely on its results.
The dual use dimension of the surveillance systems and the joint requirement analysis performed on security and defence scenarios could also be used in the framework of future activities in cooperation with the European Commission.