Airbus is urging the UK's Defence Ministry to fast-track a replacement for the Skynet 5
communications satellites currently leased from the company. With internal wrangling within the MoD over specifications for the Skynet 6 constellation holding up progress, Airbus Defence's boss has reportedly stated that a contract needs to be in place by 2018. The four satellites currently used by the British Armed Forces are the result of a multi-billion pound Private Finance Initiative (PFI) signed in 2003, with the contract set to conclude in 2022. One of the four Skynet 5 satellites was repositioned above the Asia-Pacific region in March
to offer spare bandwidth to allied nations.
When militaries around the world have wanted to expand their satellite communication (SATCOM) capacity, they traditionally have had 2 choices – either pay a satellite manufacturer billions of dollars to build a satellite constellation and then own and operate the constellation themselves or lease capacity on commercial satellites, with all the attendant concerns about availability and security.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) came up with an innovative approach to expanding its SATCOM capacity called Skynet 5.
Through a GBP 3.6 billion UK MoD private finance initiative (PFI), EADS Astrium manufactures the Skynet 5 satellites and Paradigm owns, manages, and operates the Skynet constellation. The satellites are built to UK military specifications and the UK is committed to purchasing satellite capacity from Paradigm, an EADS Astrium subsidiary.