n African Security Review - Considerations on the concept of a regional commercial satellite imagery interpretation centre in support of African peace operations : commentaries

Volume 17, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1024-6029
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The development of military reconnaissance satellite programmes, and their exploitation by the superpowers, was a significant feature of the Cold War, albeit one shrouded in heavy security. Initially of considerably lower overall performance, commercial imaging satellites have demonstrated increasing technical capability over the last 35 years, resulting in significant additional military potential becoming freely available, especially over the last decade. Historically, however, commercial satellite imagery (CSI) was largely exploited, and indeed managed, by the scientific remote sensing (RS) community as distinct from the military imagery interpretation (II) community.

The collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1990 brought about a radical evolution in the recognition of a series of evolving societal threats, many of which were played out in the developing world, especially in Africa. Many of the elements of information required in support of peace operations can be openly ascertained from the analysis of CSI by combining RS and II disciplines. Although shared international capability currently exists in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, the growing impetus is for the African Union to conduct peace operations from within the continent. This approach arguably favours the establishment and subordination of an indigenous, multidisciplinary regional satellite imagery centre to support AU interests and operations. It is suggested that the guidelines for establishing and operating such a centre may well favour its inclusion within the AU Peace and Security Directorate.

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