Galileo: The Military and Political Dimensions
Dr Richard North
Since the introduction in 1995 of a global network, satellite navigation
has broken out of the realms of science fiction to become an everyday tool
with an undreamed-of range of applications. Equipping private cars, it
provides route guidance; for ambulance and other emergency vehicle crews it
gives immediate location information; in aircraft and ships it affords a
navigation aid of unprecedented range and accuracy. It can be used to track
stolen vehicles, or fishing vessels on the high seas, manage an inventory of
goods in transit, or form the basis of a road toll system and speed
So ubiquitous has satellite navigation become that in 2001 there were more
than six million users in Europe and studies have estimated that this will
grow to over 250 million by 2020. World-wide, this figure is expected to reach
800 million. This implies that, in the foreseeable future, the personal use of
satellite navigation will become as common as today's use of the mobile
But what few people fully realise is that it has also revolutionised
military operations, precipitating changes equivalent to those achieved by the
transition from the musket to the machine gun - although that barely begins to
describe their magnitude. The way this has been done is through high-accuracy
all-weather weapons targeting, and enhanced command and control systems.
In terms of weapons targeting, we have all become familiar with the
astounding accuracy of bombs dropped by Allied aircraft, which we first saw in
the 1991 Gulf War. Those weapons were laser-guided and of little use in cloudy
or low-visibility conditions. By 2002, however, many were satellite guided,
giving them an all-weather capability to combine with their unprecedented
As to 'command and control', this is at least as important as accurate
weapons targeting, if not more so. Here, most people will be familiar with the
term 'fog of war', which accurately conveys the difficulty in commanding
forces during the height of battle. Historically, once military assets were
committed, senior commanders often had limited information on their
dispositions and overall control was lost, with increasing reliance placed on
tactical commanders, who themselves had an imperfect grasp of the whole
With satellite positioning equipment and transponders issued to individual
vehicles, linked with communications satellites, it is now possible for senior
commanders to have an unprecedented quantity of reliable, "real time"
information on the disposition of friendly forces. They have control of the
battlefield and the ability to identify and deploy military assets with
Currently, satellite positioning technology is provided only by the United
States, through its 'Navstar' global positioning system (GPS) satellites,
giving her significant tactical and strategic advantages.2 However, this dominant position is now
challenged by the European Union. It plans to install a rival system called
Galileo. Projected to be fully operational by 2008, this has considerable
implications for the United States, and for NATO and British forces which work
with both. In this paper, these implications are explored.
Ever since Galileo was first mooted, there have been reservations as to its
utility, not least because it appears to duplicate the US system, which has
global coverage and is provided free of charge to end-users. Many believed
that Galileo was simply a manifestation of the general trend in EU politics,
which demands that it should have its own system simply to assert its own
European identity, and more generally - recognising the nascent
anti-Americanism in EU politics - to free itself from any reliance on the US.
The European Commission also recognises the value of a space programme, of
which Galileo is a part, in completing the process of European
These matters notwithstanding, however, there were genuine issues relating
to European reliance on a system provided by a third party. Amongst these,
raised by the European Commission in 1998,4 were the central problems of both sovereignty
and security "if safety critical navigation systems were out of Europe's
control". There were concerns that the present (GPS) systems could not fully
meet civil users' requirements in terms of performance, and there was an
expressed need to ensure that European users were not at risk from changes in
the service or excessive future charges or fees. Faced with a dominant
position or virtual monopoly, the Commission asserted, it would be difficult
to resist such charges and perhaps impossible to develop alternatives
Crucially, also, the Commission was eyeing the lucrative market in
satellite technology. "The capacity for EU industry to compete in this
lucrative market", with a potential global market of €40 billion by 2005,
"would be seriously constrained", it argued. "Europe's capacity to compete in
the market for services could be undermined if it did not have equal access to
the technological developments in the system itself".
There was, of course, the alternative of co-operating with the US in
developing a jointly owned system and, in 1999, the Commission reported on the
outcome of a series of discussions with the US on potential
co-operation.5 According to the
Commission, it had rapidly become clear that "the US could not consider future
joint ownership and a full role for Europe in the control of the basic
24-satellite GPS constellation", primarily because of military considerations.
Co-operation with the US, therefore, would need to be based either on reliance
on the existing US-controlled GPS or on developing two complementary satellite
navigation systems, one GPS and one European/international.
Nevertheless, the US was prepared to entertain the idea of co-operation if
Europe accepted the GPS standard positioning service (SPS) and signal
structure as a basis for all civil applications. It would then consider
European participation in the process of developing and modernising the GPS
system, as well as an appropriate EU role in civil operations and
Furthermore, the US was prepared to consider making a statement of intent
to provide continued access to the GPS signal, free of direct user charges. If
the EU decided to invest in developing and implementing a constellation which
complemented GPS, the joint EU/US objective could be to establish a fully
inter-operable, global system consisting of two independent components. There
was a consensus between the US and the EU that two independent systems would
improve the robustness and the possible performance of the overall system.
Despite this, the European Union chose to develop its own, entirely
independent system. On face value, this should have caused the US no security
concerns, as the EU has been keen to stress the civilian and humanitarian
applications of its system and the fact that it is under civilian control. In
an uncharacteristic burst of candour, however, in March 2002, DG Energy and
Transport produced an "information note" which stated:
"Galileo will underpin the common European defence policy
that the Member States have decided to establish. There is no question here of
coming into conflict with the United States which is and will remain our ally,
but simply a question of putting an end to a situation of dependence. If the
EU finds it necessary to undertake a security mission that the US does not
consider to be in its interest, it will be impotent unless it has the
satellite navigation technology that is now indispensable. Although designed
primarily for civilian applications, Galileo will also give the EU a military
This was referred to by Robert Bell, NATO Assistant Secretary General for
Defence Support, in a speech in Brussels in June 2002,7 and it also precipitated open discussion of the
military role of Galileo in specialist periodicals through 2002.8 Nevertheless, the EU continues to disguise this
role, by making Galileo the responsibility of the EU Commission's directorate
general for energy and transport.
On the directorate's dedicated web site on Galileo, there is currently no
mention whatsoever of military applications, and the deception continues. In
February 2004, the Commission was still stressing that the system was intended
for "purely civilian use".9 As late as May
2004, when extolling the virtues of the project to the Indian government, an
"EU scientist" was claiming that "The American GPS was developed for military
use and is controlled by the Pentagon. Galileo, in turn, is totally
However much the Commission might claim otherwise, though, it is an
unavoidable fact that any satellite navigation system has military
applications - such systems are inherently "dual use". The potential
difficulties were recognised by the US authorities when, with the inception of
the GPS system in 1996, they structured the system so as to provide separate
signal sets. One was exclusively for military and government use and the
others for civilian purposes. Deliberate, randomly variable errors were
introduced into the civilian signals, degrading their accuracy, to make them
less attractive to unauthorised third-country military users - a provision
known as "selective availability".
This provision was removed by presidential decree in 1999. The US military
had by then made alternative arrangements to protect the system from
unauthorised use, providing an encrypted military signal set (known as the
P-code) separate from civilian signals, relying on the ability to shut off or
degrade the civilian signals in conflict areas while leaving the rest of the
system intact - a process known as "asymmetric operation". The military signal
has been in the process of upgrading since 2003, the new system being known as
The problem for the US is that, in developing Galileo, the EU has adopted a
similar architecture, aiming to provide a series of "open access" signals
intended for civilian use, with the addition of a separate, encrypted signal
set similar to the M-code. This is to be known as the Public Regulated Service
(PRS) and, although intended for government bodies, is ideally suited to
military use. In fact, given that the civilian signals provide a degree of
accuracy sufficient for any conceivable need, the very provision of the PRS,
in the words of a senior US official, "leaves no doubt that European
politicians are planning for a military dimension to Galileo".11
Furthermore, despite the diffidence on the part of the Commission in
acknowledging this "dimension", others are beginning to admit it. On 11 March
2004,12 "senior French officials" claimed
that the system would be operational for military purposes by 2010, despite
the reservations of neutral member states in the Nordic bloc, Austria and
These same French officials admitted that the move to exploit the military
potential comes not from the military or governments, but from industry
wishing to capitalise on the "significant commercial opportunities opening".
Those "opportunities" come from countries which include Russia, China and
Israel, all of whom have signed up as co-operation partners on the Galileo
project. The EU is also pressuring India to contribute 300 million euros to
the project.13 "These deals are essential
for Europe because these countries represent enormous markets. On this front
we have outpaced the US" a French insider said.14
Herein lie the seeds of conflict. For sure, the Galileo system has
significant military applications and, under EU control, gives a considerable
boost to the emerging European military capability, wholly independent of the
US and Nato. But the relative ineffectiveness of European military forces
makes it unlikely that there will be any direct conflict between the US and
the EU. The problem lies in the availability of Galileo to a wide range of
At the moment, the US relies on "asymmetric operation" to deprive enemies
of access to the system. This is achieved firstly by encrypting the military
signal, controlling access to receivers (and by disabling them when they fall
into the wrong hands - in the same way that mobile phones can be disabled). A
second step would be to switch off or jam civilian signals in areas where the
US is undertaking military operations or has vital national interests that
would require the removal of GPS signals.
With Galileo, however, the situation changes dramatically. The EU's system
could be available to enemies of the United States, and outside its control.
This was bluntly confirmed by Heinz Hilbrecht, Director of the European
Commission's DG Energy and Transport, responsible for the Galileo project,
when he declared that "it will be impossible for non-European entities to
switch off the Galileo system, or reduce system performance for civil
This confronts the declared policy of the US Department of Defence,
expressed in its vision statement for the 21st Century, which states that "we
must have information superiority; the capability to collect, process and
disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying
the enemy's ability to do the same".16 In
the event that the Europeans refused to shut down Galileo signals when
requested by the US on the grounds of national defence, the only other option
consistent with her declared policy would be to jam the signals - or worse -
an overtly "unfriendly act". The potential for conflict is self-evident.
The alarm over possible military conflicts was raised publicly by the
Pentagon in December 2001 when Deputy US Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
wrote to several European defence ministers on the subject. According to press
reports, he expressed concern that "The addition of any Galileo services in
the same spectrum... will significantly complicate our ability to ensure
availability of critical GPS services in time of crisis or conflict and at the
same time assure that adversary forces are denied similar
This conflict came to a head in early 2004 when the two sides came together
to negotiate the allocation of frequencies between Galileo and GPS. By then,
what had emerged was that the frequencies intended to be used by Galileo's PRS
would be so close to those used by the US military M-code that it would be
impossible to jam Galileo without affecting the US signal. At the eleventh
hour, however, a public showdown was avoided with an agreement between the
European Union and the US over what were termed "compatibility issues", with
the ostensible aim of ensuring that the two systems would be able to operate
side-by-side without mutual interference.
As to whether the US would be able to jam the PRS signal, in an ambiguous
joint communiqué18 the parties
referred simply to a "commitment to preserve national security capabilities".
This was amplified, but not greatly, by Ralph Braibanti, director of the US
State Department's Office of Space and Advanced Technology, and chief US
negotiator at the talks. He stated, according to Reuters news service, "We
have now agreed on signal structures that will not degrade the navigation
warfare capabilities of U.S. and military forces".19 There was no overt mention from either party
of a specific ability to jam the PRS signal.
What actually has been agreed may be something completely different. In an
area painfully short of specifics, the indications are that the crucial
question of "asymmetric operation" will be resolved by a combination of
measures. In the first instance, access to equipment capable of using the
encrypted PRS signal will be controlled, and system use would be monitored by
the Galileo authorities - which would include military supervision. Then, the
satellites themselves could be designed so as to be capable of reformulating
the signal structure and/or changing frequency, to make the modified signal
amenable to jamming in specific circumstances without affecting the US
If that is the deal - and the very lack of detail suggests that something
of this nature has been agreed - then the EU has gained a significant victory.
It will be able to insist on joint decision-making before denial of service
can be secured. But even if some unilateral capability to jam the Galileo PRS
system has been retained, this is far from a satisfactory option. The Pentagon
is apparently talking about a cost as high as $3 billion for the capability to
jam Galileo, a cost equal to that expended to develop GPS. Such a capability,
at this time, does not exist.
The potential for conflict increased when China bought into Galileo. It
joined the project in September 2003 when it announced it would contribute
230m euros ($259m; £160m) to the funding, roughly a fifth of the expected cost
of building the €1.1bn network of 30 satellites in a project expected to cost
over €3 billion.21
China also emphasises the civilian rather than the military applications of
the system, but it is also the case that Beijing is intent on rapidly
developing a more potent, modernised military, and is focusing on the US as an
enemy. In 2001, its Peoples' Liberation Army tested new aircraft
carrier-killer guided missile destroyers.22 Additionally, China has developed its
ballistic missiles to the point where it is now able to target parts of the
United States with nuclear weapon-sized payloads. The use of satellite
guidance in these and anti-shipping missiles could substantially enhance their
accuracy.23 On this basis, access to
Galileo would give China a significant boost, as well as complete independence
from the US, to its military.
However, arms sales to China are currently subject to the embargo imposed
in the aftermath of the 1979 Tiananmen Square Massacre. As high-precision
satellite guidance equipment is considered "dual use", it is subject to the
embargo and special licenses are required before export to China is permitted.
Efforts by the Chinese, supported by France, Germany and latterly, Tony Blair,
to have the embargo lifted, continue.24
But even if it does not succeed, Galileo subverts the whole notion of the
As China is now a partner in the project, it would seem perverse if its
access to receiver equipment were denied. With inside knowledge of the system
engineering and electronics, it should then be a relatively straightforward
process for the Chinese to reverse-engineer the crucial components in order to
produce its own high-precision receivers and, of course, PRS encryption codes
could be obtained.
Such an arrangement would be particularly advantageous for China. While
establishing a satellite system and the necessary ground infrastructure is
relatively expensive, for its stake in the Galileo project it gets cut-price
access and the benefit of cheap user-end technology. A satellite guidance
system for air-to-ground ordnance is estimated to cost as little as $18,000,
giving China the weapons upgrades at bargain basement prices.
Neither does the story stop there. While the US gains significant military
- and political - advantages from its effective monopoly in satellite
navigation and guidance, so too would China were it able to secure a regional
monopoly by depriving the US of its own system. To that effect, according to
the US House National Security Committee, China's People's Liberation Army has
been building lasers capable of destroying satellites or disrupting their
sensors and communications arrays.25 The
study, entitled "Future Military Capabilities and Strategy for the People's
Republic of China", warned that the PLA "plans to develop a capability to
establish control of space or to deny access and use of military or commercial
space systems in times of crises or war".
China, therefore, seems intent on acquiring the capability to neutralise US
GPS satellites, while enjoying the use of the separate Galileo system. Nor is
this possibility at all in the realms of science fiction. Satellite
vulnerabilities to lasers were revealed in 1997 during the test firing of two
lasers from a US test facility, targeting a redundant satellite. Just a brief
exposure to the beam damaged its sensors.26
Even without this hi-tech approach, China is reported to be working on
"parasitic" satellites that would attach themselves to US satellites and wreck
them. Another, relatively crude, satellite killer would be a nuclear weapon
detonated near orbit. The resulting electromagnetic pulse could wipe out whole
constellations of satellites.27
Alongside China in its determination to procure satellite navigation and
guidance technology is a heavyweight lobby working with the full support of
President Chirac, equally determined to get the Chinese arms embargo lifted,
claiming that it is "outmoded".28 It
cannot altogether be a coincidence that the most prominent members of this
lobby are the French aerospace manufacturers, the European Aeronautic Defence
and Space Company (EADS) and Snecma, companies which are directly connected
with Galileo development and the manufacture of weapons systems which utilise
satellite positioning and targeting.
EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services. In
2003, it generated revenues of 30.1 billion euros and employed a workforce of
about 109,000. The EADS Group includes the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the
world's largest helicopter supplier Eurocopter and the joint venture MBDA, the
second largest missile producer in the global market. The company is a major
partner in the Eurofighter consortium and is the prime contractor for Ariane,
the launcher which will deliver the Galileo satellites into orbit. It is, in
fact, the largest industrial partner for Galileo.
Snecma designs, develops and produces strategic and tactical missiles,
drones and target drones as well as manufacturing propulsion systems and
engines for tactical and strategic missiles. It is working on a replacement
for the Exocet anti-shipping missiles. Its customers include the world's
leading missile manufacturers, and is a key supplier to the French Ministry of
Defence (DGA defence procurement agency). It is also a participant in
Against that background, it is worth quoting an extract from a long piece
from the Chinese Press Agency (Xinhuanet), published on 17 January 2004:
"The Chinese market is very important. But the EU's embargo on exports of
sensitive technologies and arms has affected our business in China." said an
official from French company Snecma Moteurs, the biggest equipment supplier of
Airbus in Europe, in an interview.
His opinion is shared by Mr. Camus, CEO of European Aeronautic Defence and
Space Company (EADS), world's second aeronautic and space complex. He said
recently that the EU's ban on exports of sensitive know-how and arms sale to
China had long been outmoded and that this point of view was not just
personally held by himself, but generally agreed among most of people in his
trade in Europe.
He recalled his contact with Chinese aerospace experts in 1984. He
regretted to say that there has been no such close contact any more since 1989
when the EU members followed the US' sanctions on China and stopped the
Sino-EU exchanges on sensitive tech and arms sale which had just launched not
long before and has lasted till now.
Many entrepreneurs in the EU nations hold the same wishes of removing
exports bans on sensitive know-how and arms to China as they do. Their desire
is quite justified. The embargo, covering various fields from information and
manufacturing to environment, biotech and weapons, have enterprises like EADS
blocked the [sic] access to the Chinese market for their large part of core
business, a situation where they can do nothing but see players from other
countries make their foothold there.
As to that market, it is absolutely clear that where French interests lie,
especially as the French government is actively co-operating on satellite
technology - having launched a joint China-EU satellite in December."
France, in fact, has a long history of supplying arms to China, and has
long been suspected of skirting round the edges of the arms embargo. The
Chinese navy currently employs a version of a French command and control
system, which has been modified from a US design, and their tactical data
management system is an unlicensed copy of a US system, supplied by France.
France also has supplied surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft radars to
China. Furthermore, there is some evidence that France is assisting the
Chinese to build advanced submarines.29
However, with or without the embargo, EADS, Snecma and any other European
aerospace company would still have difficulty in exporting armaments
incorporating US satellite guidance technology to China. The US retains design
and production control of chipsets capable of processing the military standard
signal, which incorporate the embedded facility that enables them to be
disabled, even if they could get access to the encrypted codes. Thus,
technology which relied on GPS would be unusable. For France to maximise its
business in China, it needs Galileo - a system that is outside the control of
Shortly after China announced its participation in the project, India
followed, pledging 300 million euros in November 2003. South Korea, Brazil,
Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico and Chile are all discussing participation
and, through the European Space Agency, Switzerland and Norway are already
associated with the programme.
Another major partner is Russia. So close is Russian co-operation on the
project that, in March of this year, the EU chose the Soviet-era Soyuz rocket
to launch the first two experimental Galileo satellites, designed to test the
orbital positions and communication frequencies of the Galileo
constellation.30 The first launch is
scheduled to take place from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, by the end of 2005. Test
launches must be completed by February 13, 2006 for the EU to hold onto the
frequencies allocated to it by the International Telecommun-ications Union
(ITU). The ITU sets such deadlines to ensure that cancelled or stalled
projects do not tie up scarce frequencies. This lends a degree of urgency to
the project, which probably explains why the Russian launcher - with its
immediate availability - has been chosen.
Yet another prominent partners is Israel, which joined the project in March
2004,31 ostensibly so as to gain a share
in the lucrative development contracts. However, Israel cannot be unaware of
the military applications, and is perhaps hedging its bets against any change
in US Mid-East policy, its reliance on GPS giving the US considerable leverage
on the deployment of military assets.
One must also wonder whether Israel's objective is simply, as Ambassador to
the EU, Oded Eran, claims, a means of participating in the undoubtedly
lucrative industrial contracts.32 One can
understand the Israelis wanting some sort of insurance against too great a
reliance on US military technology, but one also wonders whether this is part
of the overall plan by the EU to strengthen its influence in the Mid-East, and
its determination to reduce American influence. Either way, regional
neighbours in what is an extremely unstable area - have expressed concern that
Galileo access will increase Israeli military dominance.33
The plethora of partners in the Galileo project, and the fact that the
ownership of the system is vested in the 25 member states of the European
Union, mark out the main differences between Galileo and GPS. Control of GPS
is vested in a national agency, the Interagency GPS Executive Board, which was
established by Presidential directive in 1996 to manage the GPS as a national
asset. It is chaired jointly by the Departments of Defence and Transportation,
and its membership includes the Departments of State, Commerce, Homeland
Security, Interior, and Agriculture, as well as NASA and the Joint Chiefs of
Staff.34 It remains, however, primarily a
military system controlled by the Joint Chiefs, they being responsible to the
President under a well-established chain of command.
By contrast, the control of Galileo is diffuse and the precise mechanisms
of control have yet to be published. Initial development was under the aegis
of the EU's framework research programme, with the participation of the
European Space Agency. Overall responsibility was vested in the Commission's
DG Energy and Transport. On 26 March 2002, however, the Transport Council
agreed to establish the Galileo Joint Undertaking, to take charge of the
development of the project,35 the functions of which were set out in Council
The core of the Undertaking is the Administrative Board, with its own
Executive Committee and director, but political oversight is maintained by a
Supervisory Board, comprising representatives of the 25 member states of the
EU and making decisions by qualified majority voting. Security matters,
however, are left to a Security Board, again comprising one representative of
each member state. But, with a staggering lack of transparency, no detail is
given of its functions or mode of operation, other than the enigmatic
instruction that it "shall adopt its rules of procedure".37
Nevertheless, a communication from the Commission makes it clear that the
Security Board is a temporary arrangement, concerned with setting up the
operational framework.38 It will be
replaced in due course by a Galileo Security Authority. Part of that operation
will be setting up a permanent operation crisis centre, known as the Centre
for Safety and Security, which will be able to take measures such as shutting
down the system or scrambling signals in the event of an emergency.39
Clearly, the Commission intends this centre to be able to respond rapidly.
Heinz Hilbrecht, leading the EU's team on Galileo, during US negotiations,
claimed that, despite Europe's requirement for consensus, it could make quick
decisions about the use of Galileo, and especially PRS, in an emergency. "We
are not going to have to take four weeks to discuss with member states whether
we are in a crisis or not", he has said.40
Here, however, the reality of EU politics may intrude. Because of the
implications for foreign relations, the centre will not be under the control
of the Commission. Instead, it is anticipated that it will be under the direct
responsibility of the General Secretary of the Council/High Representative of
the Common Security and Foreign Policy, Javier Solana. According to one
report,41 Solana would have power to intervene in "in exceptional cases, where
the urgency is such that it requires immediate action".
That may be the case but, where US interests are involved, the situation
may be more complicated, as a proposal to withdraw service or reconfigure
frequency sets at the behest of the US is likely to be highly contentious. It
is almost inconceivable that Solana, or his successor, would be permitted to
make decisions on his own. The issue would almost certainly be referred to the
General Affairs Council, for discussion by member state foreign ministers.
Should the EU constitution be adopted, the situation would be further
complicated as the proposed Union Minister for Foreign Affairs would preside
over this committee on matters of foreign policy, but would be responsible to
the European Council on defence and security issues. Given the military
implications of any decisions on Galileo service availability, it is
inevitable that heads of state and governments would insist on being involved.
It seems inescapable, therefore, that the final executive authority for the
control of Galileo would have to rest with the European Council, which
generally only meets quarterly.
Clearly, this institution is not geared to rapid decision-making,
especially in what may be a highly technical area such as deciding how Galileo
signals might be managed in order to deal with potential or actual military
threats, more so when they concern the United States or its allies, and
possibly against the interests of some member states. It might be difficult to
secure a mandate for action, on purely political grounds, and there are also
the commercial interests to consider. With so many commercial partners, to
whom the EU has contractual obligations, it may not be possible to shut down
or modify part of the system without incurring substantial financial
This raises a central question, posed earlier by the Paris-based European
Union Institute for Security Studies,42
as to whether decisions on Galileo by the Council should be taken by unanimity
- in which case institutional seizure at a critical moment is almost
guaranteed. Yet, to concede qualified majority voting would breach one of the
fundamental "red lines" of a number of member state governments, not least the
British and French.
At a more technical level, the Institute also asks who would "license" PRS
signal users and monitor unauthorised use. It asks whether individual member
states should have access to PRS for their own military operations abroad, and
then what the PRS access policy should be if one or more member states conduct
operations not sanctioned by other member states, or by the UN Security
Council. It also raises the issue of who should negotiate with NATO in the
event that the rapid reaction force or some other entity participates in a
All these questions have yet to be answered, and some do not appear to have
obvious or easy replies. How, when 25 member states and the plethora of
commercial partners all have access to the PRS signal - authorised or not -
can any authority possibly keep track of the receivers, and monitor the use to
which they are put?
What perhaps is most worrying about the Galileo project, in respect of its
military implications, is the almost wilful refusal to accept publicly that
there are military implications. Despite the fact that satellite navigation
and positioning technology is inescapably "dual use", the Commission, the
Council and the European Parliament seem determined to bury their collective
heads in the sand - the Commission by its emphasis on the civilian
applications and the absence of military applications on its web site; the
Council, by its decision on 26 March 2002 stressed that "Galileo is a civil
programme under civil control"; and the Parliament by its report on the system
in January 2004, which proclaimed: "Unlike GPS and Glonass, it is a project
which is and must continue to be used solely for civilian
Yet, by seeking to provide its PRS signal, and making it available to a
large number of players, without any realistic chance of controlling access,
or affording the US an easy means of blocking it, the European Union is making
available to potential enemies of both EU member states, and the US and its
allies, a potent weapon which could be used with devastating effect against
What is particularly dangerous is the EU's enthusiastic recruitment of
China as a partner. A major power in its own right, China has openly declared
its military ambitions and is one of the few powers in the world to increase
its defence budget. It can only be self-deception on a colossal scale if the
EU believes that China will not employ Galileo for military purposes. Yet, at
a regional level, access to such sophisticated technology could encourage the
Chinese to escalate their brinkmanship over a number of issues, which could
then get out of control, particularly in the context of Taiwan, where tensions
are rising as China continues to maintain its territorial claims.
Since the US is a committed ally of Taiwan, and has guaranteed the security
and independence of the island, in a conflict situation the US could find
itself at the receiving end of weapons or systems which utilise Galileo
signals. This can do nothing to improve already strained relations between the
EU and the US, and could substantially increase world tension.
On the other hand, it could be that the nascently anti-American EU, with
its aspirations of becoming a major player on the world scene, sees in Galileo
the ability to apply irresistible leverage and influence US foreign policy
This "leverage" is possibly an important, if unacknowledged, aspect of the
Galileo saga. The US, on past experience, will seek to avoid direct
confrontation with the EU over foreign policy issues but, in the final
analysis, in the past it has been able to ignore European sentiment when
making its plans. With Galileo, however, the EU will have power physically to
interfere with US military operations, by keeping the Galileo signal available
in areas where the US would wish it to be discontinued. It can use that power
to seek concessions or even prevent US action altogether.
Some might believe that this leverage could be beneficial, in that the EU
will be able to ameliorate the extremes of US foreign policy. On the other
hand, though, there is a danger that the EU will overplay its hand, pushing
the US into a position where it feels impelled to take direct action, either
by unilaterally jamming the Galileo signal or, in extremis, by
destroying one or more satellites in the constellation. On balance, therefore,
it seems unlikely that the Galileo project, as currently envisaged, will
contribute to world peace or stability.
In all this, there is an important issue for Britain. Close militarily to
the US and still claiming to support Nato, her participation in the Galileo
project and the Security Board, could force her to decide which side of the
Atlantic her loyalties really lie. It does not seem possible for her to sit
astride two rival systems, without there being a backlash.
Furthermore, one cannot imagine that the US will be anxious to share
technology with potential rivals, especially if it is likely to be used
against her, or passed straight to the French to support their own arms
industry, the output of which may reach destinations that cause concern. In
that the UK is an integral part of the Galileo project, the US might feel
obliged to withhold technical information and military equipment, for fear
that its own technology might be compromised.
Already, the US House of Representatives is threatening to restrict the
sale of US military equipment and technologies to European allies if the
European Union decides to lift its arms embargo on China. The House Armed
Services committee has approved legislation that would restrict sales of US
defence and sensitive commercial technologies to any country selling arms to
Should these restrictions apply to any country participating in Galileo -
and there is no reason why they should not, given its military applications -
the project could well prove to be the Trojan horse which finally destroys the
Atlantic alliance, as well as breaking up what is left of the special
relationship between the UK and the US.
In terms of what might be done to ameliorate this situation, there can be
no case for arguing that Galileo should be abandoned. As one commentator put
it, "The United States may not want to lose its monopoly on satellite
positioning signals, but in the long run, an arrangement in which the entire
world depends on a single, monolithic technology can't be a wise one".45
On the other hand, that argument does not hold for the retention of the
EU's PRS signal, which is not necessary for the EU to enjoy the fruits of
satellite technology and which presents the greatest threat to global
security. In that the US will continue to make available the GPS signals to
its NATO allies, which include the majority of European countries, the
argument for abandoning PRS seems unassailable. If the EU is sincere in
claiming that its system is intended only for civilian use, it can hardly
- European Commission. The European Dependence on US-GPS
and the GALILEO Initiative. 8 February 2002.
- Although the Russians have set up their own GLONASS
system, this is incomplete and provides low overall performance, of limited
- European Commission. Green Paper - European Space
Policy. COM(2003) final. Brussels, 21 January 2003.
- European Commission. Communication, 'Towards a
Trans-European Positioning and Navigation Network - including a European
strategy for Global Satellite Navigation Systems (GNSS),' COM(98) 29 final.
Brussels, 21 January 1998.
- European Commission. Communication, 'Galileo -
Involving Europe in a New Generation of Satellite Navigation Services'. COM
(1999) 54 Final, Brussels, 10 February 1999.
- European Commission Directorate-General Energy and
Transport. "The European project on radio navigation by satellite" Information
note. Orginally posted o 26 March 2002 on
http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/energy_transport/en/gal_en.html, but now
- See, for instance, GPS World, May 2002. "Military Role
Emerges for Galileo".
- Computerworld, 6 February 2004
- The Times of India, 17 May 2004, Chip in for Galileo,
EU tells India.
- Raymond Swider, Assistant for GPS, Positioning and
Navigation. US Department of Defence. In: "Directions 2004", GPS World, 1
- EU politix, 11 March 2004, Galileo may be
battle-ready by 2010.
- The Times of India, 17 May 2004, op cit.
- EU politix, op. cit.
- Aviation Week & Space Technology, 12 December 2004.
"GPS-Galileo Interference Talks Still Stalled".
- US Department of Defence. Joint Vision 2010.
Washington D.C., Government Printing Office, 1995.
- AFP, Brussels, 18 December 2001., US Warns EU About
Galileo's Possible Military Conflicts.
- Commission of the European Communities, IP/04/264,
Brussels, 25 February 2004 "Loyola de Palacio welcomes the outcome of EU/US
discussions on GALILEO".
- Reuters, 26 February 2004. "Satellite deal allays
EU-US row, military concerns".
- GPS World, May 2002, op cit.
- Wired Magazine, August 2002. "Europe's New Air
- China Reform Monitor No. 527, 27 January 2004,
American Foreign Policy Council, Washington, D.C.
- Frost G and Lachow I (1995), GPS aided Guidance for
Ballistic Missile Applications: An Assessment, reprinted from Proceedings of
the 61st Annual Meeting of the Institute of Navigation, RAND/PR-474.
- The Times, 1 June 2004. "Britain aims to lift arms
ban on China".
- Washington Times, 3 November 1998; See also: China
Reform Monitor, No. 135, 5 November 1998. American Foreign Policy Council,
- Christian Science Monitor, 20 October 1997
- Albuquerque Journal, 27 March 2001.
- www.chinaview.cn, 17 January 2004. "EU businesses
urge lifting exports ban on sensitive tech to China".
- Newsmax.com, 8 April 2004
- AFP, 3 March 2004. Russians to launch first two of
EU's Galileo GPS satellites.
- The Jerusalem Post, 17 March 2004, EU, Israel to
jointly build Galileo radio programme.
- GNSS Today, 5 March 2004
- European Voice, 25-31 March 2004.
- Council Regulation (EC) No 876/2002 of 21 May 2002
setting up the Galileo Joint Undertaking. Official Journal L138.
- Ibid, Article 7.
- Communication from the Commission to the European
Parliament and the Council - State of progress of the Galileo programme.
Brussels, 15 October 2002, COM(2002) final.
- Communication from the Commission to the European
Parliament and the Council - Progress report on the Galileo research programme
as at the beginning of 2004. Brussels, 18 February 2004, COM(2004)
- Space News, 2 June 2003
- European Voice, 4-10 March 2004
- Lindström, Gustav with Gasparini, Giovanni (2003),
Occasional Papers No. 44, The Galileo satellite system and its security
implications, European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris.
- European Parliament. Report on the Communication from
the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the state of
progress of the Galileo programme. 13 January 2004. A5-0003/2004 final.
Emphasis in the original.
- The Financial Times, 13 May 2004, US threat to
restrict arms sales to Europe.
- Wired Magazine, op cit.