By 2008, the EU’s new satellite system, “Galileo,” will be fully functional. Last December, a €150 million contract was signed between the European Space Agency and Galileo Industries giving the go-ahead to build the first four Galileo satellites—to be deployed in 2008. By 2010, the full constellation of 30 satellites will be in orbit.
This presents a huge challenge to America’s Global Positioning System (gps)—a satellite system founded for military purposes. gps has greatly contributed to America’s military edge on the world scene.
Consider the tremendous advantage offered to the U.S. by its superior navigation system. For example, in the last two Iraq campaigns, missiles could be aimed so precisely they could enter a specifically targeted window. An estimated 60 percent of the bombs used in Iraq were gps-guided.
Galileo will be more advanced, simply because it will be 30 years newer. Upgrades are not planned for the gps system until after Galileo is already active.
Although Galileo is supposed to be a commercial system, the EU is clearly intending to use its new technological edge for military purposes, even over the objection of member state Britain. The January 3 Space Review derided the notion that Galileo is intended as a civilian system as being “as silly as that of a civilian aircraft carrier or a civilian armored personnel carrier.” It also noted that for Britain’s objections to be dismissed so readily “indicates that Galileo’s backers believe that there are some very high stakes involved.”
In fact, Galileo will be used as a key component of the EU’s military resources, and the U.S. will have lost the advantage provided by its gps. For more information on where the EU’s space program is headed, see our December 2003 article “Space Wars!” under Issue Archives.