Julian Moxon/GENOA

The Western European Union (WEU) should take over responsibility for security of the future European Galileo global navigation satellite system (GNSS), according to a study undertaken by a UK research team.

While Galileo is being designed mainly to meet civil applications, including air transport precision navigation, it has become clear that there are major security concerns linked with potential interference by hostile states. Access to the system in the event of war will also need to be controlled.

The issue became one of the major themes at the GNSS '99 conference at Genoa on 5-8 October, when a study group led by the UK Defence and Research Agency (DERA) pointed to the likelihood of the system being jammed during conflicts "if it were not under allied military control".

Several states indicated to the study group, which is part of several involved in defining the Galileo system before planned go-ahead in December next year, that their lack of control over GNSS transmissions could lead to jamming without notice.

Speaking at the conference, the leader of the DERA study, John Owen, said there was a "growing problem of malicious interference". He suggested that the WEU, the intergovernmental defence and security organisation, should supply the civil/military interface for Galileo, providing security and defence inputs to a monitoring facility that would issue real-time data on any threats facing GNSS-dependent users. It would also liase with the US global positioning system, with which Galileo will be interoperable.

The Galileo system will probably be structured with three main channels - an open access channel, available to all, and two controlled access channels for high integrity operations, the first certifiable, for aviation and other professional applications, the second for safety of life and security roles.

Decisions on frequencies, charging mechanisms and encryption techniques have yet to be taken, but will probably become the responsibility of the Galileo Security Board, one of several bodies being set up as part of the Galileo organisation.

Olivier Carel, president of the French Institute of Navigation, says "we cannot escape the military implications" of Galileo. "We need civil/military co-operation."

Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) has been given the green light to start formal negotiations with Russia and the USA on interoperability issues. "We're looking at the best way forward to find a global solution for a truly global service," says Luc Tytgat, of the EC's transport directorate. A US source says, however, that the talks are "extremely unlikely" to be concluded in time for the EC's go-ahead target of December next year.

Source: Flight International