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Italian military buys USD 100 mn spy satellite from Israel

Paris, France: The Italian Defense Ministry has bought a high-resolution optical reconnaissance satellite from Israel as part of an offset package agreed to in exchange for the Israeli Defense Ministry’s purchase of Italian trainer aircraft, according to industry officials.

Under an agreement announced in February, the Israeli air force agreed to purchase an undetermined number of M-346 trainer aircraft built by Alenia Aermacchi. The satellite to be purchased by Italy as part of the contract’s offset package would have a ground sampling distance sharper than 1 meter. Its performance could approach that of Israel’s Ofeq 9 optical reconnaissance satellite, which was launched in 2009. The satellite would use the IMPS 2 platform built by Israel Aerospace Industries, Israel’s principal satellite builder.

The satellite transaction, which officials said is valued at more than USD 100 million, is the latest example of the fragility of agreements between Italy, France and Germany on a de facto division of expertise, with France taking charge of optical systems and Italy and Germany sticking with radar reconnaissance.

The decision appears to run counter to the Italian Space Agency’s planned OPSys, or Optical Payload System, work to develop an Italian-made optical reconnaissance satellite for Italian defense authorities.

“France has already expressed its view that OPSys is a kind of provocation, the same as Hi-Ros is,” said one industry official, referring to a German government programme to build a high-resolution optical satellite. Hi-Ros does not appear to have moved forward in recent months.

Germany and Italy both have launched radar satellite constellations. Germany’s SAR-Lupe satellites are reserved for military use, while Italy’s four-satellite Cosmo-SkyMed has military, commercial and civil missions.

The French government has signed separate agreements with Italy and Germany promising to provide French Helios and Pleiades optical reconnaissance imagery in exchange for access to radar data.

Source: Space News