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Satellite reconnaissance for the UK?

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Satellite reconnaissance for the UK?

Old 21st Sep 2008, 23:42
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Satellite reconnaissance for the UK?

This is sort of aviation related.

A recent page from the SBAC website informs us that a UK space industry body has recently released a paper about the UK in space. It can be found here at Case4Space, or downloaded from the website as a PDF file.

Naturally they are keen to promote UK space related activities, and the Security page includes the following:

The asymmetric nature of contemporary security threats means all countries are potential targets and sources of terrorism. Surveillance must therefore be available on a global basis. Earth observation also has an important role to play in understanding environmental pressures on society and planning for the consequences. At present the UK makes decisions based on foreign owned space surveillance assets.

The ability of the space industry to support the projection of UK international policy is largely predicated on the UK retaining an independent space capability with on-shore research and industrial knowledge and skills. UK expertise in optical and radar observation, combined with low cost smallsats, are increasingly providing utility in surveillance applications.

An independent UK space capability ensures:
National control of space assets enabling greater fl exibility in both policy
and actions.
The freedom to exploit intellectual property and develop spin off from the
space sector without restrictions being imposed by international partners.
Benefits for UK industry and research, enabling dual technology exploitation
and reducing generally the overheads associated with developing platforms
and payloads.

This is consistent with the concept of Operational Sovereignty announced in the recent Defence Industrial Strategy.


Then the Conclusions:

6. UK should break the total dependence on foreign satellite intelligence. A smallsat demonstrator SAR is recommended as a first step.

7. The importance of retaining sovereignty over key skills in military satellite technology should be fully recognised in the Defence Industrial Strategy and a research and technology programme should be initiated to fund small demonstrators and risk reduction activities ahead of major military programmes.


So what exactly do they propose? If the smallsat SAR mentioned above is a demonstrator, what does it demonstrate and to whom? Are they thinking of something like SAR-Lupe or Cosmo-SkyMED, in which case larger satellites and larger budgets will be needed?

Do they intend that the UK should have a photo reconnaissance satellite capability? Whilst Topsat demonstrated that a low cost system is feasible, how useful would it be to a threatre commander in practice? Topsat had/has a 2.8 metre resolution, this compares unfavourably with US (and other) reconsats, and basic physics dictates that a greater resolution demands either a larger lens (and therefore a larger satellite) and/or a lower orbit?

What about Sigint like the cancelled Zircon? This link from the Federation of American Scientists may interest you:

France's intelligence services had also thought through the intelligence implications of the space age, and during the mid-1980s had come to very different conclusions. France had decided that its national commitment to space, exemplified by the Ariane rocket and the extensive complex from which it was launched at Korou in French Guiana, should be considerable. Spending heavily on military space projects did not frighten French ministers - in fact, it appealed to them. France committed itself to buying two photographic satellites code-named HELIOS. In 1986 funds were agreed for the development of a radar imaging craft called OSIRIS and later renamed HORUS. Research was also started into the only other significant area of space intelligence-gathering - the area that interested GCHQ - with the sigint project ZENON.

The price of developing three different kinds of space-based intelligence systems is obviously high. In 1995 the cost of the HELIOS project alone is estimated at about 950 million. France's annual spending on its military space programme grew from about 200 million in 1990 to around 390 million in 1994. Legislators in the National Assembly considered these plans too ambitious and tried to stop some of them. Paris tried to attract Spanish and Italian investment in HELIOS and to persuade Germany to contribute to HELIOS 2 - so helping to pay for a second generation of satellites - in return for allowing these allies to share in the tasking and product of the systems.

A British offer to take a large share - perhaps exploiting GCHQ's know-how to take the lead in ZENON - would probably have been welcomed by France, and would have had at least some benefits for British industry. To speculate along these lines misses the point, however; even in its 'go it alone' form, ZIRCON was at least partly conceived as a tribute to the NSA - a way of paying them back. Joining traditional rivals France in such a venture would have touched deep chords of national insecurity. Furthermore, taking even a one-third share in France's array of projects would, by the 1990s, have been costing Britain more than ZIRCON. One senior civil servant argues that the French programmes were not a real alternative: 'Investing anywhere else would have bought far less capability. The French don't even know how far behind they are.' By 1987 Britain had taken the decision, to borrow Geoffrey Howe's words, to play the role of beggar rather than chooser in the world of high-technology intelligence-gathering.


So, would this proposed capability make up for the capability lost when Canberra PR9 was retired/axed? This news page from the MOD about RAPTOR suggests that it does at least in part. Would we be better off spending money on more RAPTOR pods, perhaps taking Tornado F3s as Typhoon takes over the air defence and converting them to be dedicated reconnaissance aircraft? Could another platform be found for the Canberra PR9's EO system?

These arguments are of course academic, as we all know there isn't a stash of money for intelligence gathering assets, but I include them in the hope of stimulating debate. Before the usual suspects pipe up, I would point out that intelligence collecting isn't limited to aircraft or satellites. Troops, ground installations, vehicles, surface warships and submarines all contribute to the intelligence picture.
WE Branch Fanatic is offline  
Old 21st Sep 2008, 23:49
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Space based imagery collection is a totally different to tactical aircraft based, so a satellite system wouldn't replace a Canberra.
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 00:06
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PR 9 replacement?

WEBF in response to your question about RAPTOR replacing the Canberra capability the answer is no it won't. Primarily due to the differences in the sensors they both employ.
the Canberra had SYERS (see here) summarised as:

"Senior Year Electro-Optical Relay System (SYERS) carried by the U-2S. Recently de-classified images shown in the press hint at the capabilities, with images of the Houses of Parliament taken from 47,000ft over the Isle of Wight, the time on Big-Ben can be clearly seen."

The Raptor is a DB110 and described as:

"DB-110 delivers high definition imagery in the visible and infrared bands at extremely long ranges. Its broad area, spot and stereo coverage is unmatched by any system in its class."

(my italics)

The chance to use SYERS was lost when the option to fit them to a couple of extra ASTOR airframes was turned down some years ago.

In short there is nothing to replace the capabilities that the PR9 had, either in terms of stand-off/resolution or wide area/high quality.

Something frequently ignored, however, is the ability to analyse the data and get the information to where it's needed in the time scale required and with the imagery analysis trade currently at an FMDL in the mid 60% it is unlikely to improve in the near future.
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 08:58
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UK Satellite Photo Recce

Whether we like it or not, as a member of the European Union, Britain is already paying for the development of a European Photo-Reconnaissance satellite system. For some time now Europe has been developing the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) satellite.

Most people have heard of the unnecessary Galileo GPS system already under development at vast expense to the European taxpayers, but very few seem to have heard of GMES, which could end up costing even more.

As with so many scams designed essentially to simply extract money from taxpayers, it's been dressed up in 'eye catching environmetal clothes' and has even been given a fancy name - Kopernikus.

Eurosat

Heimdall

Last edited by Heimdall; 23rd Sep 2008 at 08:45. Reason: Fix broken link
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 18:40
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high-technology intelligence-gathering

... Google Earth?
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 19:34
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"Senior Year Electro-Optical Relay System (SYERS) carried by the U-2S. Recently de-classified images shown in the press hint at the capabilities, with images of the Houses of Parliament taken from 47,000ft over the Isle of Wight, the time on Big-Ben can be clearly seen."
I've got an idea that this photo (or the description of it) were proved to be faked. If the Canberra PR9 was overhead the IoW when the photo was taken, then parts of the HoP would be hidden behind other buildings. I think that the consensus of opinion was that the photo had to have been taken from somewhere near Brighton, or somewhere in a direct line between the HoP and Brighton.
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Old 22nd Sep 2008, 20:48
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Heimdall
Your link is written by somebody more excited by conspiracy than knowledge.

The US GPS is no longer owned by the US Military is just one of many errors and exagerations
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 08:43
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The Questions

Tourist

I agree that GPS is now a national US asset, but it is still operated by the US Air Force, which is enough to arouse suspicion in the minds of the French. However, as you appear to think the entire article is inaccuate, perhaps you can explain the following:

Why Galileo is necessary?

Why Kopernikus is necessary?

Why it would be inaccuate to describe Neil Kinnock as a useless Welsh windbag?

Surely there are much more important things this useless government could spend money on, the armed services for one, than agreeing to fund new European capabilities already available in the commercial sector?

Heimdall
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 10:45
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Mention of the Zircon sigint satellite in post no. 1 reminded me of when the BBC first broadcast Duncan Campbell's reporting of this supposedly Top Secret project in the BBC's Secret Society series back in the 1980's.

The part in the broadcast where Campbell, inteviewing a senior MOD official, let's drop mention of the Zircon project, in theory only known by a few highly placed officials, and the response (in his facial features) of the official concerned, is classic.

As is usual a little Googling shows the clip is online here: YouTube - Secret Society: Zircon

The interesting bit is about 1min 55s into the clip. Watch his mouth!

Huge repercussions followed; the BBC was raided by Special Branch to confiscate film and documents, as was Campbell's house - all of course captured on camera and subsequently broadcast in the news bulletins.
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 20:46
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The SYERS sensor was a U2 bit of kit - the Canberra version was called RADEOS.

Unfortunately for In Tor Wot's differences post, both RADEOS and RAPTOR use(d) the DB110 Sensor (110 being the focal length in inches), as indeed does the SYERS nose on the U2. In each guise the DB110 is modified and has slightly differing capabilities.
It was of RADEOS that the "Big Ben Time" quote was made in an article in Air Forces Monthly. It was my understanding from speaking to people who did the trials for RADEOS that the Isle of Wight bit was put in to give an idea of the distance involved to the audiences at presentations and was not the precise location of the jet.

Raptor couldn't do the Canberra job for 2 reasons:
1. The datalink is utter crud
2. If a GR4 altimeter ever hits 47,000ft the aircraft actually travels back in time to the 50's , leaving only 2 flaming tyre marks in the sky.

How is sunny Shefford nowadays anyway? Still smell of onions?
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 21:23
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"Raptor couldn't do the Canberra job for 2 reasons:
1. The datalink is utter crud
2. If a GR4 altimeter ever hits 47,000ft......................"

Both of which are overcome by fitting the system to a more appropriate platform (begining with M and ending with 9).
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 21:51
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Raptor couldn't do the Canberra job for 2 reasons:
1. The datalink is utter crud
2. If a GR4 altimeter ever hits 47,000ft the aircraft actually travels back in time to the 50's , leaving only 2 flaming tyre marks in the sky.
But isn't ASTOR fitted with the same Common Data Link as RAPTOR? You don't hear too many people saying ASTOR's DL isn't up to much?
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 22:06
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Both of which are overcome by fitting the system to a more appropriate platform (begining with M and ending with 9).
Can't be having that - all those swanky old Canberra survey dets covered from a cabin in Creech? Think of the Air Miles missed!
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Old 23rd Sep 2008, 23:32
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Sling a Raptor pod under a two-seat Typhoon and you're cooking with gas.
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Old 24th Sep 2008, 07:39
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RADEOS/SYERS and DB110

Blackadder IA, while there are similarities between SYERS and DB110 they are not the same. The SYERS had a better sensor and optical capability/quality - described here.

Rapid Deployment Electro-Optical System (RADEOS) was what the UK/RAF called the SYERS programme on Canberra and came complete with the US workstations and cabins, maintained by US contractors.

Raptor couldn't do the Canberra job for 2 reasons:
1. The datalink is utter crud
2. If a GR4 altimeter ever hits 47,000ft . . . . .
Agreed about the datalink, and yes it is the same 'type' as Astor/Sentinel . . . . .
You don't hear too many people saying ASTOR's DL isn't up to much?
You also don't hear many people admiring the high quality imagery being generated by Sentinel either . . . .

As I mentioned previously an option to fit the SYERS sensor and an RMK-TOP with an EO back to 2 modified Bombardier Global Express aircraft was put forward (2004 IIRC) and was turned down as we could cope with the 'capability gap' (chasm!) for the foreseeable future.
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Old 24th Sep 2008, 16:15
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You also don't hear many people admiring the high quality imagery being generated by Sentinel either . . . .
Come to think of it, you don't see too many people flying Sentinel either .... although I do believe they have a rather nice computer game set up in the hangar where the IAs can look at the old BBC 2 test card whilst the front enders sit there making aeroplane noises
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Old 19th Oct 2009, 00:29
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From War Is Boring: Combat Aircraft: Pentagon Eyes Spaceplane for Speedy Recon

Wouldn't it be great to have a few in RAF markings?
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Old 19th Oct 2009, 01:36
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and the point you wish to make is?
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Old 19th Oct 2009, 19:49
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How about this as a cheaper alternative to satellite coverage...

...DB110 on a platform that can fly for 20ish hours and according to NASA:
The aircraft, designed for long-endurance and high-altitude flight, will be used for multiple roles. NASA's Suborbital Science Program within the Science Mission Directorate will be Ikhana's primary customer, using the vehicle for Earth science studies. A variety of atmospheric and remote sensing instruments, including duplicates of those sensors on orbiting satellites, can be installed to collect data for up to 30 hours.
Here is IKHANA with a similar sized pod...



So I would say that this is far more affordable option to huge satellite costs??
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