Military Technology 05/2021

an indigenous system for imagery observation, and one for radar obser- vation by the following year. These goals are aspirations, rather elements of a solid, attainable plan. The only major space-related military achievement so far is the estab- lishment at Białobrzegi of the Centre for Image Recognition (ORO), re- sponsible for analysing imagery data. The images are acquired by the 2nd Regional Logistic Base (2RBL) in Warsaw, in batches from commercial companies. The latest deal was announced in April 2021, when the 2RBL signed a € 20,000 contract with Astri Polska, one of the leading Polish participants in European Space Agency programmes and an official dis- tributor of Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery. Astri will provide 19 data packages in 2021, with options for an additional 19. All acquired data will be processed by the ORO. Details are classified, but it is widely believed that the Polish military also has unspecified access to data gathered by other NATO member states. According to official sources, the ORO receives data mainly from the European Satellite Centre in Spain and, thanks to a bilateral agree- ment, from Italy’s COSMO-SkyMed/OPTSAT-3000. Such solutions are considered risky, since Poland could lose such access in the event of war or major political or military crisis. The Polish military is fully aware of this critical limitation. Can Poland design, build and launch satellites independently? Warsaw plans to involve local companies, which have relatively impressive port- folios. Since 2012, Polish engineers have launched several satellites – mainly for scientific purposes, using third party launchers. Currently, it is estimated that there are 100 indigenous space-related companies in Poland, many already actively cooperating with both European and global partners. One of them – SatRevolution in Wrocław – launched two satellites in April 2021 in cooperation with Virgin Orbit, which provided the LauncherOne rocket. In 2023, the state-owned Exatel telecommunication company wants to launch an indigenously-developed satellite. Regarding more advanced, dual-use projects, assistance from more experienced partners will be needed. It is widely believed that NATO and EU partners will have priority, but Poland is open to discuss the issue with other entities – South Korea or Israel, for example. Poland has already been involved in several multinational initiatives, such as the European Defense Agency and the European Space Agency, and has contributed to the preparation of major space-related documents, such as the NATO Space Policy. Polish experts are also involved in various NASA projects. It is expected that any international project will be coordinated by the Polish Space Agency, established in 2014 and responsible for both civilian and military projects. For many years, the Polish defence establishment has been trying to acquire satellites, which are considered to be a crucial tool in modern warfare. However, for reasons that remain unknown, satel- lite systems have never been a priority for civilian decision-makers. The current government continues this policy, despite the fact that Mateusz Morawiecki – now Prime Minister – said in 2016 (as Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Development), that an indigenous sat- ellite is a Polish goal and a national priority. This policy of inaction is not only incomprehensible, but is also quite harmful to the Polish armed forces, which lack critical capabilities. Indigenous satellites would also constitute a significant boost to the Polish aerospace industry. The Polish military already possess systems which can strike from a rel- atively long distance. For instance, Poland has procured the AGM-158A JASSM and AGM-158B JASSM-ER missiles, and operates NSM coastal anti-ship batteries. In 2019, Poland purchased HIMARS rocket launch- ers. There have been some plans to equip future Polish submarines with cruise missiles. However, none of these systems can rely on precise target tracking data provided in real time – an essential requirement in the event of armed conflict. That applies mainly to the Kaliningrad Oblast, a highly militarised Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania. Russian units are very mobile, meaning Poland needs constant access to imagery data. In order to build situational awareness, Poland reportedly uses its F-16 jets with DB-110 and AN/AAQ-33 pods to observe the Kaliningrad Oblast from Polish airspace. The Polish military wants to acquire six independent space-related capabilities: satellite communication; navigation; early warning; weather forecasting; terrain observation; and space situational awareness. In 2008, the Polish defence establishment expressed its ambition to launch the first indigenous observation satellite, designated MAZOVIA. This plan has never been achieved. The same can be said about more solid plans in 2014, when Poland officially declared that, by 2022, it wanted to ac- quire two dual-use imagery satellites. In 2019 the Polish General Staff said that it wanted one VHR-class [Very High Resolution] satellite and three to five micro-satellites. The same institution believes that, in a longer timeframe, Poland should acquire indigenous design and production ca- pabilities. According to current ambitions, by 2024 Poland is to develop A research associate in the Department of Foreign Policy and Security Theory at the University of Lódz, Poland, Robert Czulda is an expert in international security and defence issues and a regular contributor to MilTech . Robert Czulda Poland’s Unfulfilled (Satellite) Dreams A dream too far? Poland has developing expertise and an appetite for space capabilities – but a current inability to bring such a vision to fruition. (Image: Airbus Defence & Space) 44 · MT 5/2021 · Special Supplement Military Space