Airbus Defence and Space

Security & Defence All features


Security and defence in the twenty-first century are inconceivable without space assets. Events in recent years – the 1991 Gulf War, the conflicts in the Balkans, the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center – have firmly established space as a vital, intrinsic element in any effective security apparatus for peacekeeping and defensive procedures and for battlefield operations.


Space-based facilities form a system that is central to the requirements of political and military authorities in today’s geostrategic environment, which is characterised by an awareness of the emergence of new, more diffuse and unpredictable, supranational threats.

Watching out for peace

Free from any legal or geographical constraints, non-intrusive, optical and radar image satellite systems provide a capability for observation of the entire planet, crucial for intelligence-gathering and analysis, a prerequisite for appropriate situation awareness and decision-making response. They play a key role in crisis-prevention, verification of compliance with international treaties and proliferation surveillance, which can help to steer the parties to a diplomatic solution. In conflicts, satellite image data is a highly valuable tool for planning operations, watching for adverse activities, target acquisition, deployment and conduct of own forces and weapon systems, combat search and rescue, damage evaluation, and tracking displaced population movements.

Message received

The chain of command and control, from political, strategic to tactical level, depends on the seamless and secure transfer of large amounts of highly classified information, for which communications satellite systems are fundamental, able to reach areas without ground infrastructure and unhindered by territorial boundaries. Modern dedicated military communications satellites offer protection against jamming and electromagnetic interference.

Satellite-based navigation, positioning and timing information is another critical aspect of security activities. Many of today’s weapons systems rely on highly precise and reliable positioning space capabilities in order to achieve maximum effect with minimum collateral damage or casualties; encrypted telecommunications and digital data systems require efficient and accurate network synchronisation and time reference distribution, and exact real-time knowledge of location is vital for troops operating in areas where mapping facilities are inexistent or obsolete. Battle orders are transmitted by electronic signals. Space-based signal intelligence (SIGINT) systems collect data on electromagnetic emissions, thus ‘listening in’ to an adversary’s activities and gaining better knowledge of their intentions.

Protection for the future

The proliferation of aerial and ballistic vectors capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction constitutes a real threat which urgently needs to be addressed. Early warning systems are used to detect the launch of any ballistic missile, from the heat it gives off during the propulsion phase, and thus to locate the missile's starting point and predict its trajectory. Exo-atmospheric interceptors are used to destroy incoming offensive missiles and their warheads in the most effective manner before they reach their target. And, of course, possessing a ballistic missile capability of one’s own is a strong dissuasive argument for a potential aggressor. The peace and security of citizens is the ultimate ambition. Space is a truly strategic instrument to help make the world a safer place.

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