Space: France launches a latest generation military satellite

Army strikes in space. France has put into orbit, this Saturday, a military communications satellite presented as a jewel of technology and a pillar of its sovereignty. The Ariane 5 rocket took off from Kourou, French Guiana, carrying the 4A satellite of the Syracuse program, which allows the French military deployed around the world to communicate at high speed and in complete security from land, air, sea relays. and submarines. The mission was successfully completed 38 minutes and 41 seconds after launch.

“The Syracuse 4A is designed to resist military aggression from the ground and in space as well as jamming,” Colonel Stephen Speight, an Air Force and Air Force spokesman, told AFP. ‘Space.’ It is equipped with the ability to monitor its immediate environment and move to escape attack.

A real risk: In July 2020, the American Space Command accused Moscow of “conducting a non-destructive test of an anti-satellite weapon from space”. And in 2017, the Russian “spy satellite” Louch-Olymp already tried to approach the Franco-Italian military satellite Athena-Fidus.

Growing demand

Ultimate Performance, the S4 is protected against the electromagnetic pulse that would result from a nuclear explosion, explained AFP Marc Finaud, an expert on weapons proliferation at the Center for Security of the Political Center (GCSP) in Geneva. “This is the final warning scenario in case of deterrence failure”.

The Syracuse program represents a total investment of around 4 billion euros. The fourth generation will triple the communication rate of the S3. The Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) has committed 354 million euros with Thales and 117 million with Airbus for the Syracuse 4 alone.

“There is an almost mathematical law of regular growth of data volume”, underlines Colonel Spatt, the requirements generated by the command system, the presentation of the tactical situation on the ground, the video (for example coming from the Reaper drone deployed in the Sahel). or real-time processing of data from different parts of the planet. Eventually, France will have 400 stations capable of communicating with S4 from land, an aircraft, a ship or a submarine, according to the DGA.

However, French nuclear deterrence relies heavily on its submarines, recalls Marc Finaud, a proliferation expert at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP). “If an adversary is able to change communications with the submarine, hack it, damage it, that’s the end of resistance.”

Risk of space warfare

The long-planned deployment of the satellite comes at the right time as Paris moves forward with its European defense sovereignty project. France, which has sovereign maritime territory in all the world’s seas, cannot do without a strong technological base.

“He needs this part to show that he has the means for his ambitions,” said Xavier Pascoe, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) and an expert on space. “It lends credibility to all its military tools, as well as its industrial capabilities”.

Weeks after the humiliation received by Australia, which abandoned a huge contract for French submarines in favor of American submarines, thus weakening French power in the Indo-Pacific region, the S4 satellite restored pride to the wounded beast. “Politically, it is proof that France remains a power, perhaps average, but whose scope of action remains international”, emphasizes Xavier Pascoe.

With annual investments of two billion euros in military and civilian spaces, France is far from the top three: 50 billion for the United States, 10 for China and 4 for Russia, according to 2020 figures from the French government. But S4 allowed France to remain in the lead pack and confirmed that Paris was indeed participating in the arms race.

Mark Finaud noted in passing the potential risk of “hackers, pirates, criminal actors or terrorists coming from the nebula who could embark on a kind of more sophisticated star wars”. As for spatial geopolitics, it gets a little more exciting every year. “We are talking about a space war and this risk is accepted by all”.

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