On 17 February 2022, the Belgian Ministry of Defence formally handed over to the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI Agency) a facility which will serve as the technical test and research facility for NATO's satellite communications (SATCOM).
Located at Camp Casteau in Mons, Belgium, the facility will be the place where NATO – in partnership with industry – tests new satellite communication capabilities before they are put in service in support of NATO operations and missions. The facility will also conduct experimentation, research and development for future capabilities.
"This new NCI Agency SATCOM technical facility will add capability across several frequency bands. All of these capabilities, which were previously dispersed, will now be merged under one roof in this new building. This will significantly improve the Agency's ability to support NATO operations and exercises, as well as scientific engineering work needed during projects and future capability development. With space as a new domain of operations, this facility is an important jewel in NATO's technological crown," said NCI Agency General Manager Ludwig Decamps at the ceremony marking the handover of the facility.
"When Belgium made the commitment to the Agency and the Alliance as a whole to design and construct a future proof administrative building for the Agency at Camp Casteau, the antenna testing capability was part of that commitment," said Lieutenant General Frédéric Goetynck, Director General of the General Directorate of Material Resources at the Ministry of Defence of Belgium. "Thanks to the professionalism of both the NCI Agency programme management and our Programme Management Team, the challenges encountered were resolved in a proper and timely manner."
The construction of the facility was funded by Belgium as part of its commitment as a Nation hosting important facilities of the NCI Agency on its territory.
The technologies that will be tested at this facility may be used in any of NATO's satellite ground stations in Belgium, Italy, Greece and Turkey, which are operated by the NCI Agency. The ground stations provide critical satellite communications for NATO operations and missions.
In his remarks, the NCI Agency General Manager expressed a particular appreciation to the Belgian project management team, represented by COL Luc Delhoux and LTC Christophe Van Herzeele, for their exemplary work in keeping the project on track, including managing the construction during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
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Lieutenant General Goetynck concluded by adding that this contribution is only a small part of the Belgian commitment. "NCI Agency and the PMT are working very closely and hard together, not only to integrate the communications and information systems into the project of SHAPE's new headquarters, but also to design and later build the NCI Agency Digital Enterprise Centre (NDEC)."