13 Sep 2011 By JULIAN HALE DefenseNews
BRUSSELS - A European Defence Agency (eda) satellite communications procurement cell will "probably" be operational in 2012, said a high-level official speaking at an annual space conference hosted by the French think tank the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales and the Secure World Foundation here Sept. 13.
Five countries - the U.K., France, Italy, Poland and Romania - are set to take part, said the speaker, who added that "hopefully" other EU countries will join in. "The idea is to share commercial satellite communications procurement to get better prices on the market than is currently the case," the speaker said.
The contractual arrangements have not been finalized, but the speaker said that a contractor would probably be used to interact among EU member states and operators who propose particular services.
The cell has been described by Maj. Gen. Pierre Hougardy, Belgium's capability director, as "a major step in European collaboration under the roof of EDA to get better and cheaper access to commercial satellite communications services for our military crisis-management operations."
The official added that the EDA is also looking at defining "critical space technologies" in the EU.
"One main domain [as identified with the European Space Agency at a meeting in September] is semiconductors," he said. "We don't want to rely too much on Chinese imports." Another area the EDA is looking into, together with the European Union's External Action Service, is the command and control of UAVs via satellite.
The speaker stressed that the EDA "is not a space agency" and "does not see its primary role" as being involved in vast R&D space programs.