Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the first step towards upgrading the UK’s military satellite communications system, SKYNET.

The Defence Secretary announced the launch of a new competition to operate and maintain the UK’s next-generation military satellite communications system, SKYNET 6.

Speaking at the DSEi conference today, 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.”

According to an MoD news release:

“50 years on from the launch of the first SKYNET satellite (SKYNET 1A) in November 1969 and following the success of subsequent SKYNET programmes, the MOD is upgrading its military satellite system providing secure, long-range communications to the armed forces and UK allies.

This upgraded system could be used to facilitate the transmission of secure communications from a ship at sea, support Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations, allow fighter jet pilots to receive or upload operational data in real-time, or enable land forces to conduct missions in remote environments.

Satellite communication systems are vital to operating effectively in hostile environments in which secure communications are required or commercial communication systems may have been disabled or are insufficient.”

This contract, named SKYNET 6 Service Delivery Wrap (SDW), covers the operation of the UK’s constellation of satellites and ground stations, and the provision and management of ground terminal infrastructure, say the MoD.

Further contracts, covering other aspects of the SKYNET 6 programme, worth approximately £6bn, will be announced in the coming months.

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I’m glad we’ve got a soveriegn capability in this area. Any chance of expending SKYNET to incorporate the capabilities that we would have had with Galileo?


And the whole of NATO get to use them also.


Skynet is in a geo-stationary orbit at c 36,000km above the surface of the earth. Satellite navigation birds are in low earth orbit. There are some low earth orbit comms sats, but they tend to be in large constellations.


Thanks, good to see the difference. Makes sense for the comms birds to be up high- what with the curvature of the earth and all. I guess with nav you need the satellites to be quite narrowly spread so that the triangulation is accurate enough between the 3+ and the base station you need, so may as well make them lower.


Did we really call our military satellite project “SKYNET” ? Someone in the MoD was severely lacking awarneness….


Skynet 1a was launched in 1969… The Terminator, which I believe you are referring to, was released in 1984… We got there first.


Were were the third to have communication satelites we should operate our own! Shame the RAF don’t operate our satellites like they used to do! Airbus does today!. Could we launch these kind of satellites from scotland?

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, 1001 SU does not operate them. But I believe the MoD own the Ground stations and varied infrastructure.


Ah right, would like to see the RAF take over the running of our military satellites instead of paying someone else to do it, and that someone else must be making a profit doing so! So why not get the RAF to do it like they did before! Our military’s losing skills contracting key capability’s out!


If the RAF did Skynet it would go the same way as Trident has and screwed over the RN budget.

Daniele Mandelli

I remember reading of the great reservations amongst the military in the 90s when many military communication systems were outsourced. The DHFCS, SATCOM, as examples.

Cannot see the trend being reversed now.

JFC, or StratCom as it’s now called, still has control and oversight through ISS and GOSCC, and the sites like Oakhanger, Hawthorn and Colerne are still MoD owned.

So not completely handed to contractors on a plate.


We could if required, use the new launch facility in Scotland to launch a cloud of cubsats. These could be purposed for GPS or radio relaying. The launch vehicles that are earmarked will only be able to launch to near earth orbit.

Daniele Mandelli

Sorry for off topic. But this clip from Forces News is interesting in light of the oft speculated talk here about just what the CSG should or will contain.

This from Commodore Mike Utley, COMUKCSG.

2 Frigates. 2 T45. 2 RFA. 1 SSN as core.

He then says it does not have to be together all the time. And probably ignores the fact other commitments may need to be dropped to resource it.

But with T31 and River B2 if they decide to use them further afield, achievable.


Yeah looks good Daniele, but I thought we didn’t have the ships! All the idiots telling me that for years on end got so annoying! We have the ships! And we will be sailing on that voyage with Nato ships or one Dutch frigate confirmed so far I’ve heard, and what Nato nation wouldn’t want to see their ships sail with a new british battle group and also help a key Nato Allie. Hell I wouldn’t be surprised if an American destroyer joined for part of the journey considering an American squadron will be embarked. Looks good I can’t wait… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I think they mean resource the CSG and keep up other commitments.

I believe ships were pulled off other tasks for Corporate in 82. Sometimes it might be necessary.


Skynet is an artificial neural network-based conscious group mind and artificial general intelligence system that threatens the future of mankind!