THE Athena-Fidus programme
The French military has been using the Syracuse programme’s geosynchronous satellites to communicate since 1984. Military payloads initially installed on France Telecom’s Télécom 2 satellites are now on board military-operated dedicated satellites (Syracuse 3A and 3B).
Syracuse 3 brings security to the system, which is now protected against jamming and electronic warfare. France now handles its own military communications, within its territory and in foreign deployment operations. Orders and intelligence are carried over long distance via intranet, phone, or fax, in a fast and secure way.
Additional needs quickly surfaced with the evolution of military operations. Teams required a greater transmission capability, without necessarily having an infallible jamming protection (for non-strategic communication). The French civil defence agency has also expressed a similar request due to its increasing high-speed satellite communication needs (for firefighters, security, etc.).
The Athena-Fidus programme (Access on theatres for European allied forces nations – French-Italian Dual Use Satellite) is here to fill this gap by offering complementary services to support those of the existing national military satellites. A high-capacity transmission geosynchronous satellite was launched on 6th February 2014, using an Ariane 5 launcher, from the Guyana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana.
Athena-Fidus mainly uses Ka band frequency, as well as the best-performing civilian telecommunication standards. To save on the budget, user terminals are based on commercial products. Once operational, this infrastructure will be used by armed forces and civil defence agencies from both France and Italy.