On February 8th, 2023 Ukrainian President Zelensky visited the United Kingdom and met with various members of the British government to secure further military aid and support against the ongoing Russian Federation invasion. That visit seems to have paid off as the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense has announced “multi-million pound capability boost” consisting of £200 million in international aid contributed to a fund from multiple partner nations. While the Ukrainian government was not able to secure its primary goal: advanced NATO fighter jets, this is a win for the embattled former-Soviet bloc nation. According to UK Secretary of Defense Wallace, this package will include:
“Vital capabilities in the form of artillery ammunition, maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and spare parts for equipment, including Ukraine’s current tanks.”
This UK led contribution is meant to bolster the International Fund for Ukraine (IFU) which was started by the UK, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark with more contributors such as Iceland and Lithuania. The fund has reached more than £500 since its inception in 2022.
Most importantly however, Secretary Wallace also announced the signing of the Allied Persistent Surveillance from Space Initiative (APSS). According to Wallace:
“The agreement, which will launch the Allied Persistent Surveillance from Space Initiative (APSS), was signed by the UK, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and Sweden.
The letter of intent agrees that signatory nations will explore: the potential for sharing data from national surveillance satellites; processing, exploitation, and dissemination of data from within national capabilities; and funding to purchase data from commercial companies. APSS is expected to start operating in 2025.”
While the UK Ministry of Defense and the United States Department of Defense have been sharing imagery and other data with Ukraine, this agreement could streamline the process and possibly establish a permanent Ukrainian military posting within NATO to receive space based collections more quickly. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the challenges of NATO partners and non-NATO partners in terms of intelligence sharing. One of the most important aspects of intelligence is IMINT and space-based SIGINT; the APSS will hope to leverage commercial collectors and combine them with a unified NATO collection apparatus. In a separate announcement from NATO concerning APSS:
“This initiative will consist in the establishment of a virtual constellation – ‘Aquila’ – of both national and commercial space assets, such as satellites, leveraging the latest advances in commercial space technology. As such, it will help streamline data collection, sharing and analysis among NATO Allies and with the NATO command structure, while generating cost savings.
“This project is also a great example of civil-military cooperation, providing a powerful asset to our intelligence toolbox”, NATO’s Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoan? said.