SKYNET Competition Heats Up as Airbus and Northrop Grumman Form Team

Skynet 6A. Image – Airbus

Airbus Defence and Space and Northrop Grumman have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop and foster a strategic partnership in military satellite communications for the UK’s future wideband SKYNET military satellite communications program.

SKYNET is a family of seven military communications satellites, currently operated for the UK MoD by Airbus, that provides strategic communication services to the UK Armed Forces and allies. SKYNET 5 is the most recent generation of this family. Airbus is currently producing the SKYNET 6A satellite, which is scheduled to launch in 2025.

The SKYNET Enduring Capability (SKEC) program will deliver the next era of satellite communications (SATCOM) to the MOD using new space assets and a way to monitor and control them. These assets will also be supported by additional commercial services to provide a reliable and robust communications service.

In August 2023, the UK chose three competitors to move forward on the SKEC effort, Airbus Defence and Space, Lockheed Martin, and Thales Alenia Space.

The SKEC space segment will consist of two separate procurements:

* A Narrowband Satellite System (UHF) requirement that will be delivered through a dedicated satellite (GEO orbit). Sevice entry is expected to run between 2028 and 2036.

* A Wideband Satellite System (WSS) requirement which will be delivered through a procurement for multiple medium-sized satellites (GEO orbit), including X and Mil Ka-band payloads. Up to three satellites will be produced valued at GBP1.5 billion ($1.9 billion). The first launch is planned for 2028. A winner for this procurement is expected in late 2023.

The overall SKYNET military satellite communications program is reportedly valued at around GBP6 billion ($7.3 billion).

About Richard Pettibone

A military history enthusiast, Richard began at Forecast International as editor of the World Weapons Weekly newsletter. As the Internet grew in importance as a research tool, he helped design the company's Forecast Intelligence Center and currently coordinates the EMarket Alert newsletters for clients. Richard also manages social media efforts, including two new blogs: Defense & Security Monitor, covering defense systems and international issues, and Flight Plan, which focuses on commercial aviation and space systems. For over 30 years, Richard has authored the Defense & Aerospace Companies, Volume I (North America) and Volume II (International) services. The two books provide detailed data on major aerospace and defense contractors. He also edits the International Contractors service, a database that tracks all the contractors involved in the programs covered in the FI library. More recently he was appointed Manager, Information Services Group (ISG), a new unit that encompasses developing outbound content for both Forecast International and Military Periscope.

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