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SKYNET 5 – THE PERFECT PFI

SKYNET 5 – THE PERFECT PFI
By Julian Nettlefold

BATTLESPACE meet Paradigm Director of Operations, Peter Bruton.

The landmark PFI partnership between the UK MoD and Paradigm has now reached its fifth year of operation. To find out how the project is progressing we went to the Skynet Operations Headquarters at Corsham in Wiltshire to meet Paradigm Director of Operations, Peter Bruton.

Paradigm signed a contract with the UK MOD in October 2003, for the provision of all worldwide satellite communications services to UK Armed Forces up to 2018. The programme, procured as a groundbreaking Private Finance Initiative (PFI), includes the funding for the next generation of UK Milsatcom capability. In December 2005, Paradigm Secure Communications Ltd signed an amendment with the UK MoD to extend the 15 year Skynet 5 PFI service contract, bringing the concession period to 2020. The programme is worth up to £3.5bn.

Astrium is prime contractor on the Skynet 5 contract through its Astrium Services subsidiary Paradigm Secure Communications. Paradigm holds the contract with the UK Ministry of Defence for the provision of secure milsatcoms until 2020. The MoD manages Skynet through the Global Communication Services IPT headed by Darrell Midgley.

Astrium is also prime contractor on the Ariane 5 launchers in charge of manufacturing, and leads the launcher manufacturing activities of the various European industrial companies. Astrium Space Transportation recently signed an agreement with Arianespace to step up production of Ariane 5 launchers.

As part of the PFI deal, Paradigm offers military and commercial communications services to other governments and international organisations. The Skynet 5 satellites are in geostationary orbit 40,000km above the earth’s surface and relay communications between headquarters in the UK and British forces deployed on Operations. Skynet 5A was launched on 11 March 2007 from Kourou, French Guiana.

“These successful launches mark the culmination of many years of co-operation between industry and the Ministry of Defence and will further enhance Paradigm’s ability to deliver mission critical communications services to our deployed military customers, faster and better than ever.”

Paradigm accesses a full range of commercial satcom solutions and is now the definitive one stop shop for UK military satellite communications. The first Skynet 4 constellation is still delivering services although Skynet 4A was put into ‘Graveyard Orbit’ three years ago, a process which requires the burning of the remaining fuel in the satellite to launch it into orbit 300kms away from the existing orbit under agreed International Treaties.

The Skynet 5 satellites are based on Astrium’s Eurostar E3000 satellite platform with a 34m solar array span and a launch mass of 4.7 tonnes. The satellite, with its world beating antenna technology and high power and data rates, provides a significant enhancement to operational capability for our forces – whether deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan or at sea. In other areas commercial satcoms is being used in the field of welfare services, to provide ‘free’ messages between service personnel on operations and their families and friends.

Now, five years on, the Paradigm Team and EADS have clearly demonstrated its abilities to manage such a complex MoD Requirement for which £1.2bn had to be privately financed; it has also streamlined and developed a ProcurementProcess which from which lessons can be learned for future MoD programmes.

Paradigm’s parent company Astrium Services, part of EADS are in the position to supply new technology through the development and promotion of satellite services, concentrating on secure communications and navigation as the European “one-stop-shop” provider for milsatcom services.

“It was a brave move on the MoD’s part to choose the Skynet 5 Project as a ground-breaking PFI?” the Editor asked Peter Bruton.

“Yes indeed, but you must r

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