French proposal: ‘laser blinding of satellites during a conflict’

PARIS, ($1=0.88 Euros) – In July, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parley, indicated that a laser weapon – derived from the Helma-P system developed by CILAS – would be tested onboard a ship of the French Navy in the first half of 2022 and would work to strengthen the ability of the latter to neutralize potentially hostile drones. But this is not the only interest of high-power lasers.

In any case, during his last hearing in the Senate, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy [CEMM], Admiral Pierre Vandier, made it clear that he had asked for an “acceleration of the schedule” for the development of such systems, has learned.

“Powerful lasers, for example, can destroy drones, which can make it possible to save sophisticated ammunition and therefore pay attention to the cost-per-shot ratio,” he said before discussing another possible application.

“Lasers can also be space-guided weapons for space warfare: in this way, they can blind surveillance satellites to ensure that the navy is in hiding in a conflict situation,” said Admiral Pierre Vandier. “In this way, the space maneuver was integrated into the Cormorant naval exercises,” he added.

Indeed, blinding a laser observation satellite would be interesting, for example, during a landing operation or air raids. This was the topic of the Cormorant exercise, which took place in October with the amphibious helicopter carriers [PHA] Tonnerre and Mistral, the frigates Forbin and Provence, as well as about ten helicopters from the Army Light Aviation [ALAT].

During a previous hearing, this time in the National Assembly, Admiral Vandier explained that the hours of the helicopter raids had been “calculated according to the sections of the French satellites” and that the “challenge” was to “carry out undetectable attacks on our satellites.” Hence the interest in the possibility of “gluing” such surveillance devices. “The goal is to be able to continue to fight in our environment by countering the technology deployed from space,” Admiral Pierre Vandier insisted back then.

A project in this direction is underway. In fact, in 2019, the National Aerospace and Research Service [ONERA] said it was working on “so-called adaptive optics technology”, which should not make it possible to destroy a satellite, fulfilling its mission “by damaging its solar panels or by “entering through its optical windows to blind it.”

More generally, for Admiral Vandier, the evolution of conflict at sea “obliges us to look at the whole spectrum” and therefore to be “able to control the seabed, underwater spaces, sea surface,” air-sea space, exo-atmospheric space, and digital space.”


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