Airbus provided satellite imagery for Exercise Oxide


Airbus Defence and Space supplied geo-intelligence maritime security support to the South African Maritime Safety Agency (Samsa) for Exercise Oxide between the French and South African navies earlier this year.

The reports were generated from the multiple satellites operated by Airbus Defence and Space. These satellites are the optical satellites SPOT 6 and SPOT 7 complimented by the very high resolution satellites Pléiades 1A and 1B. The radar satellites are known as TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X and will soon to be complimented by a third named PAZ.

The satellite imagery was acquired on 22 and 23 September to generate a vessel detection report the same day. This allowed for the detection and identification of military vessels and civilian vessels within the open water zone during the search and rescue portion of the exercise.

Thomas Lutz, Director Sales East & Southern Africa at Airbus Defence & and Space, said the geointelligence data was provided by the Maritime Application department within GEO-Intelligence based in Toulouse, France. For the maritime environment, Airbus Defence and Space offers an Information Fusion Centre that integrates various satellite, AIS (Automatic Identification System), VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) and satellite imagery solutions for its customers.

Satellite imagery is one of the assets that Airbus Defence and Space is offering to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). In March 2012 Cassidian (as a predecessor of Airbus Defence and Space) demonstrated its Spexer 2000 radar to the SANDF on the border with Mozambique. Lutz said the radar was hugely successful as the operators were able to monitor the border on a 24/7 basis. It was also showcased in Cape Town and at Coega in Port Elizabeth, for harbour monitoring and for monitoring ships at anchor. Cassidian demonstrated the radar to the Institute for Maritime Technology (IMT), which performs defence research for the South African Ministry of Defence. The IMT did trials in False Bay.

Lutz said that feedback from the system, which was also equipped with electro-optical sensors and a laser rangefinder, was fantastic. He said a radar like the Spexer would be highly useful for border surveillance, counter-poaching and peacekeeping operations. He suggested that the SANDF could start off with some sensor towers at hotspot locations (or mobile sensor reconnaissance vehicles), and connect these with a command and control centre. As funds became available, this system could be expanded over time

Airbus is marketing the radar elsewhere in Africa and the system is operational in the Middle East on a big border security project.

The Spexer forms part of Airbus’s larger border security portfolio. The company has sold its border security services to three African countries in West and North Africa and is in discussions with a number of oil producing countries in this regard, with several acquisition projects underway. Airbus officials told defenceWeb that there is demand for border protection due to migration, terrorism, and smuggling. The migrant crisis in Europe has in particular raised the issue of border security in nations like Libya, Egypt and Algeria.

Airbus Defence and Space has executed major border security contracts in places like Romania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and France. For instance in Saudi Arabia it has executed the largest fully integrated border security solution, covering 6 500 km of land border and 2 500 km of maritime border.

Qatar’s sea and land borders are protected by cameras and radar towers while France integrates radars, AIS, mobile platforms and other sensors to monitor its borders in Europe and overseas territories, according to Dr Thomas Jacob: Integrated Systems and VP Border Security at Airbus Defence and Space.

Jacob said that sensor-based systems require less people in the field, who are reduced to checking, intercepting threats and maintaining equipment. Sensors are able to operate in all weathers, 24 hours a day and maintain a continuous presence.