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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

GPS World May 2002 Vol. 13, No. 5; Pg. 10

Military role for Galileo emerges

By Dee Ann Divis

The intense debate prior to the European Union (EU) transport ministers' March 26th decision to approve Galileo threw a spotlight on an issue that officials on both sides of the Atlantic had been politely avoiding for years -- the military implications of Galileo.

Up to the end of 2001 very little had been said about this. The EU had griped for years that the United States' GPS was run by the military -- an arrangement they insisted undermined commercial applications by creating uncertainty as to whether the civilian service might he limited or turned off in a crisis. European leaders repeatedly asserted that a civil system, designed for and run by the civil community was therefore urgently needed.

The debate broke wide open, however, in early December when U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz sent a letter to his counterparts in NATO expressing concern over a proposal to overlay part of the GPS military M-code with a signal for the Galileo Public Regulated Service (PRS) -- the portion of the Galileo service that would be used by military forces. The letter created a fervor and generated accusations that the U.S. was trying to stop adoption of Galileo. Adding to the mix, the Directorate for Energy and Transport of the European Commission (EC) acknowledged, in published documents supporting Galileo, its desire for an independent satellite navigation system to support the defense forces of the EU and military export sales.

With the cards now laid out on the table, and the M-code the subject of on-going negotiations, one can be assured that the conversation will be getting considerably less polite.

Galileo Decision

The approval of Galileo of by the EU's transport ministers freed [euro]450 million from the EU (on top of [euro]100 million already allocated) and [euro]550 million from the European Space Agency (ESA). The money will serve to get the ball rolling on the development and actual deployment of the system's 30 satellites. The first phase, to last from 2002 through 2005 and cost [euro]1.1 billions will validate the system design and includes the launch of test satellites. The test satellites are needed for technical reasons but must also be launched by February 13, 2006 for the EU to hold onto the frequencies allocated to it by the International Telecommunications Union. The ITU sets such deadlines to insure that cancelled or stalled projects do not tie up scarce frequencies.

Two new organizations, one civil and one military, will be formed to -- respectively -- manage and advise on the development phase. Initially, the EU and ESA will comprise the first entity, called a Joint Undertaking (JU), which will manage system development and issue the initial contracts for Galileo. Once the contracts are let, and an issue of conflict of interest no longer exists, private companies may become members of the JU. The private sector is also expected to eventually fund the lion's share of the [euro]2 to 2.1 billion that will be needed to launch the system and operate it once it is finished.

A Security Board, made up of EU members, will guide both the military applications of Galileo and the security arrangements needed to keep the system and infrastructure safe. How the Security Board might evolve remains to be seen. The membership could change, for example, as not all of the countries that belong to ESA -- which is providing nearly half the funding -- are also members of the EU.

Dueling Military Signals

The work of the Security Board will certainly be the immediate focal point from the U.S. perspective. The most pressing matter is the EU's current plan to overlay at least a portion of the frequency band planned for use by the GPS military M-code with the Galileo PRS signal.

The PRS is to have the highest level of security and reliability and is the portion of the service dedicated for use by police, customs, firefighters - and the military.

The frequency, power, and structure of this PRS signal are not yet entirely clear. According to sources in the United States, all of whom asked not to be named, the PRS signal as now envisioned could potentially interfere with GPS,though details were not available as of press time. Direct interference is, however, agreed by all to be only a small part of the potential problem. The real issue is signal fratricide.

Signal Fratricide

To support its military in times of conflict, the U.S. wants to be able to jam navigation signals - all non-U.S.-military navigation signals--in an area of conflict.

But if the U.S. jams the PRS signal, placed where it is now proposed, it would likely jam its own military signal as well.

From the EU perspective very good technical reasons may exist for seeking to use a part of the spectrum planned for the M-code. A U.S. expert noted that the segment of radio spectrum supporting the M-code is one of the least likely areas to suffer interference from non-navigation users.

The ability to sell combined GPS/Galileo receivers also has a very substantial allure. With the proposed Galileo signal design and frequency plan, of combined receivers would be easier to produce and sell. This could be key to breaking into the market. Indeed, almost no one believes that Galileo-only receivers would ever be built - or that, after a completion of Galileo, GPS-onluy receivers would be made and sold.

Technical merits, however, are clearly not the only driver behind the momentum to build Galileo. Despite seemingly endless criticism of the military nature of GPS, European desire for a military navigation signal that cannot be jammed comes through in documents from EU experts and the EC itself.

Sovereignty and Arms Sales

In "Galileo: An Imperative for Europe," a document released by its Directorate for Transport and Energy (DG-TREN) on December 31,2001, the EG argues that satellite navigation capabilities will become part of all aspects of defense over the next 20 years, and failure to have a separate satellite navigation capability will put European defense systems under the U.S. thumb. "If the Galileo program is abandoned," says the position paper, "we will, in the next 20 to 30 years, lose our autonomy in defense."

A second paper from the same Directorate, dated March 12, 2002 -- days before the final vote -- reinforces the point. "If the EU finds it necessary to undertake a security mission that the U.S. does not consider to be in its interest, (the EU) will be impotent unless it has the satellite navigation technology that is now indispensable. Although designed for civilian applications, Galileo will also give the EU a military capability."

It is not just a question of supporting EU defense forces. The Directorate pointed out the desirability of a separate Galileo signal to support the military export market as well.

The potential market for military equipment incorporating satellite navigation is huge. Navigation signals are working their way into intelligent weapons, aircraft, ships, individual hand-held units for soldiers, and unmanned surveillance systems. Eventually military equipment that does not include satellite navigation capability will become as hard to sell as rotary telephones. What is at stake? "The American defense industry accounts for around 100 billion dollars, with 22 percent exports," noted the Directorate, "compared with some 50 billion for the European Union, with around 25 percent exports."

Not having an alternative to GPS will put the EU at a competitive disadvantage in this market, implies the paper. Systems that incorporate satellite navigation are "already subject to US domination," it states. Without its own capability the EU could be cut off from supplies of chip sets or other basic components or be put at a pricing disadvantage. The EC asserted that at least one unnamed American firm is refusing to sell a key component in defense receivers, a cryptological processor, and instead is offering only completed receivers at 10 to 50 times the price.

Security and Economics

A second signal would almost certainly change the competition within the market for military equipment -- and other equipment as well. But would it also undermine U.S. security?

"Certainly the pitch that the Galileo people are making is that that Galileo will enable countries to retain a satellite-based precision navigation capability even if the United States doesn't want them to have it," said John Pike, director of the defense and intelligence think-tank Globalsecurity.org. "I don't think that any stretch of the imagination is required to [come to that conclusion] -- otherwise, why would they be doing it?"

But Pike went on to say that there is little risk in the realm of high-end arms. Navigation receivers found, for example, in missiles are subject to export controls and little disagreement has arisen between the U.S. and Europe over the export of such technology.

Low-end equipment, such as vehicle navigation systems or handheld units that can be bought in stores, are another matter. Up to now they have been seen as too pervasive to address through export controls.

"That's the reason that the control has focused much more on localized jamming," Pike told GPS World.

Now What?

The potential threat to U.S. military interests seems quite real. Without some sort of ability to deny access to Galileo signals as well as GPS open signals, enemy ground vehicles and individual soldiers could operate with the advantages of satellite navigation. Troop movements, guerrilla activities, reconnaissance -- would all appear to be easier for adversaries if they could continue to operate with the aid of Galileo.

The question at this point is -- what can the United States do?

Though it appears likely, laying the PRS on top of the M-code is not a done deal. The EU ministers did mandate as part of their decision to approve Galileo that the system be made interoperable with GPS and any follow-on systems. Also, working out non-interference regimes is part of the ITU process.

Should the codes be intermingled, one U.S. source suggested that the M-code might be restructured to get around the fratricide problem. Doing so, however, would likely add complexity and cost.

The Galileo team has also stated that they have solutions to the fratricide problem. First, the PRS signal would be encrypted and equipment using the signal would be controlled. The total system would be monitored by appropriate government authorities and, in the case of PRS, those authorities would include the military. The implication is that the fratricide problem can be addressed through these controls.

In the same documents mentioned above, the Directorate also asserted that they had technical solutions to the problem as well. Although the documents are painfully thin on specifics, an EU official very familiar with the discussion explained to GPS World that Galileo system designers were considering implementing signals that could be reprogrammed after the satellites are launched. That would allow Galileo operators to order the satellite to either reformulate the signal structure or shift the frequency -- perhaps both. Though the official could provide no details on the approach, such a capacity has been suggested for GPS as well.

In the end though, it appears that at least part of what the EU wants is for the United States to change its decision making when it considers jamming the signal. The same EU official suggested that the decision to deny service must be made jointly by the United States and the EU. He proposed that such decisions be made in stages without automatically blocking all portions of the service.

The matter will certainly be part of the on-going negotiations between the EU and the United States. Though negotiations have been stalled for some time they are set to resume in either May or June. On the table as well will be questions of market access and charges for services.

Although unresolved issues regarding private financial contributions to Galileo could return to haunt the program, the United States should not comfort itself with vague dreams of Galileo's dissolution. The system has already progressed further than most U.S. officials thought possible. Moreover, Airbus and Ariane -- two European programs initiated for similar reasons also survived difficult financial beginnings. Indeed the EU official who spoke to GPS World assured that, should the private sector fail to back the project for the next phase, the government would consider funding it. The entire United States government, including Congress, needs to address the program as it stands, keeping American military needs -- and the military aspirations of the EU -- in mind and address Galileo seriously.

Copyright 2002 Gale Group, Inc.