The new terrifying age of warfare draws closer. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7419751.stm
The new Skynet constellation will allow the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to pass much more data, faster between command centres. The bandwidth capacity of Skynet 5 is two-and-a-half times that of the old satellite constellation, Skynet 4. The new system will enable British forces to make use of next-generation weapons systems, such as the recently introduced Reaper drones. Skynet
These unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are deployed over Afghanistan but are remotely piloted by RAF personnel in the US. This is made possible only by Skynet's ability to handle the drones' real-time video feeds.
Other battlefield applications would include surgeons, unsure how best to treat badly injured soldiers, being able to send scan information back to the UK for a second assessment; and then using video conferencing to discuss cases.
Skynet 5 is the largest PFI (Private Finance Initiative) so far delivered to the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD). Under the PFI, the British military buys guaranteed capacity from its commercial supplier (Paradigm), which is free then to sell any spare capacity to friendly governments.
These third-party sales earn money for Paradigm and the MoD in what is a "shared gain" arrangement. The launch of the Skynet 5C satellite should provide substantial extra revenue potential.
When the PFI deal was originally set up, the MoD was expecting to receive two satellites; but the high cost of spacecraft insurance in the early 2000s prompted project chiefs to put that money into building an extra platform instead.
"In effect we've self-insured," said Mr Peto. "We've used the money we would have spent on insurance to build a third satellite.
"When we launch [Skynet 5C], we will have three very capable satellites to provide communications, not only for British forces but for our third-party market which makes this whole project viable."
Paradigm hopes the money it earns over the course of its contract (which runs to 2020) will be sufficient for it to reinvest in further spacecraft with enhanced payloads.