Intelligence: EU aims to boost its means of acquiring information
By Sven Gateque | Friday 04 November 2011
With their 75% dependence on American resources during the operations in Libya, European military forces have become well aware of the need to develop their own intelligence and target acquisition resources.
Although the EU’s military role until now has been limited to early warning or situation assessment, there is a good chance that it will start to assert itself more given the needs identified in this area.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) has already included the development of certain of these capacities among its top priorities, attaching particular importance to reinforcing interoperability between different imagery systems in Europe.
In most cases, the centres that receive data can operate with only one system, the agency explains. Reflection is therefore under way to make available part of the information gathered by the military Earth observation programme to the EU satellite centre in Torrejon, Spain.
“The programme has analysts, but no satellites, so connecting the two would give the EU access to more reliable information,” explains one expert.
Taken over by the EDA in 2009, this Multinational Space-based Imaging System (MUSIS) programme plans to replace existing European satellite constellations (Helios, Pleiades, CosmoSkyMed and SAR Lupe) and to ensure a fair degree of interoperability between the new systems that will replace them.
After “heated” negotiations, Poland signed up to the programme last December, joining, to a limited extent for now, the six founding countries (Belgium, Germany, Spain, Greece, France and Italy).
The development of drones and ‘pilotless’ maritime systems – seeking to develop synergy with the European Commission’s programmes focused on civil application of such means – would strengthen Europe’s autonomy in information acquisition. There is also an area where the EU excels: research and analysis of open-source information (or overt intelligence).
Because of its non-classified nature, which calms the concerns of most member states reluctant to share information classified as ‘secret’, analysis of open-source intelligence has become current practice and the Commission is now trying to optimise this with universities and industry.
Launched last year, the Virtuoso project (Versatile InfoRmation Toolkit for end-Users oriented Open-Sources explOitation) is one way of achieving that goal. According to recent reports, the project is mid-way through the implementation stage and is expected to be operational by April 2013.
Once up and running, it will provide the EU institutions, public administrations or even individuals with access to structured information and enable the interconnection of different data research tools.