The announcement regarding the £6bn SKYNET 6 programme was made by the Defence Secretary during the DSEi conference.
According to Wallace, the competition is for the contract, named SKYNET 6 Service Delivery Wrap (SDW), that calls for the operation of the country’s constellation of satellites and ground stations, along with the provision and management of ground terminal infrastructure.
Additional contracts, covering other aspects of the SKYNET 6 programme are expected to be revealed in the next few months, said the Defence Secretary.
Ben Wallace said: “Fifty years ago Britain put its first satellite, SKYNET1, in space. Today we’re having to deal with increasing threats to satellite-based navigation and the need for robust communications has never been more vital.
“That’s why we’re developing SKYNET6 which will give our forces unparalleled capacity to talk to each other in any hostile environment.”
The upgraded military satellite communications system can be potentially used to enable the transmission of secure communications from a ship at sea, help fighter jet pilots, in real-time, to receive or upload operational data, support unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations, or enable land forces to undertake missions in remote environments.
The successful bidder from the competition will also negotiate the access of Ministry of Defence (MOD) to commercial satellite services apart from managing the UK’s contribution and access to systems owned and operated by its allied nations.
MOD said that the SKYNET 6 SDW would need a number of the same highly-skilled jobs employed currently by SKYNET 5 programme and will continue to contribute to its prosperity objectives.
MOD Information Systems and Services organisation (ISS) networks head Julian Knight said: “We are about to enter a vital phase of the SKYNET programme. This competition is a significant opportunity for industry to work at the very heart of our programme – delivering improved flight and ground operations.
“We are seeking an innovative partner that will ensure effective and consistent Defence Satellite communications and will look to continually maximise performance and value for money.”